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From an anonymous XVlllth-century engraving. 


VIGEE-LE BRUN, 1755-1 789 




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Madame Vig^e-Le Brun in her Studio . . . Frontispiece 


A Young Artist 7 

Joseph Vernet lo 

Madame Vig^e Le-Brun 14 

Catherine II, Empress of Russia 19 

Study of a Head 23 

Mother-love 26 

The Palace Gallery 30 

Wavering Virtue 35 

The Evening Promenade 39 

View of Passy 42 

Head-dresses of the Eighteenth Century 4^ 

The Palais-Bourbon and the Cours La Reine . . . . 51 

The Box at the Op^ra 55 

The Chaillot Fire-station 58 

D'Alembert 62 

Head-dresses of the Eighteenth Century 67 

Fete de Nuit at the Little Trianon 69 

Gluck 71 

Queen Marie-Antoinette 74 

The Trianon 76 

Fashions of the Eighteenth Century 78 

Fashions of the Eighteenth Century 83 

Marie-Antoinette's Arrival at Notre-Dame .... 85 

Madame Elizabeth of France 87 

The Music Lesson 90 

Madame du Barry's Pavilion at Louveciennes .... 92 

Fashions of the Eighteenth Century 94 

Fashions of the Eighteenth Century 99 

"It's a Son, Monsieur!' loi 

The Comte de Provence 103 

The Princesse de Lamballe 105 

Fashions of the Eighteenth Century iIq 

Madame Le Brun Hi- 

The Comtesse du Barry iiy 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 


Peace Bringing Back Abundance 119 

Gr^try 122 

An Amateur's Studio in the Eighteenth Century . , .124 

Fashions of the Eighteenth Century 126 

M^nageot 131 

The Hotel de Beauvau 133 

Fashions of the Eighteenth Century 135 

Calonne, Controller-General of Finance 138 

Madame de Brunoy's House in the Champs-Elys^es . . . 140 

The Abb]S Delille 142 

The Comtesse de Sabran 149 

Ponce-Echouard, the Poet 151 

Madame Mol]§-Reymond 154 

Madame Saint-Hubert 156 

Hubert Robert- 158 

Caillot the Actor 163 

The Prince de Ligne 165 

Madame Dugazon 167 

Franklin 170 

Caillot, the Actor, as Tom Jones 172 

Madame Dugazon as Nina 174 

Beaumarchais 179 

Madame Vig£e-Le Brun 181 

Boutin 183 

Watelet 186 

The Boulevards near the Hotel Montmorency . . .188 

Etienne Vig^e 190 

In the Park 195 

The Hotel Montmorency 197 

Rousseau's Tomb at Ermenonville 199 

The Duchesse d'Orleans 202 

The little Godparents 204 

Mademoiselle Le Brun 206 

The Princess- Royal and the Dauphin 210 

From an anonymous XVlllth-century dranving in the Muse'e du Louvre. 

To face p. J. 


less renowned than man, may be truthfully 
said of so celebrated a portrait-painter as 
Madame Vigee-Le Brun. When a man's sayings 
are heard on the lips of the lowliest dwellers of a 
country, though he be dead and his name unknown 
to them, he may be considered to have endowed 
mankind with a part of himself that is immortal. 
Madame Vigee-Le Brun achieved this victory in 
paint. There is hardly a civilized home that is 
unfamiliar with her portrait of herself and daughter 
under the title of La Tendresse Maternelle. So 
great a triumph of a woman, coupled with her 
fame as the favourite portraitist of the unfortunate 
Queen Marie- Antoinette, and as the fashionable 
painter of all the aristocracies of Europe, cannot 
fail to excite one's curiosity concerning her life 
and personality. 

Elisabeth Louise Vigee was born in Paris, in 
the Rue Coq-Heron, on the i6th April, 1755, 
the same year in which the Archduchess Marie- 
Antoinette was born in Vienna. Her father was 
a pastel painter of considerable talent, who had 
taken part in the exhibitions of the Academy of 
Saint Luc since 1751. At an early age she showed 
signs of having inherited her father's gift, and 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

received from him every encouragement to develop 
it. In her Memoirs she relates her first steps in 
mastering her art. She was thirteen years old 
when her father died, and after that event she 
determined to earn her living by painting. It 
was not long before she began to make an impres- 
sion with a few portraits of a serious kind, which 
suggested a pleasant imitation of Greuze, and 
persuaded a few persons to give her a commission. 

Her good looks and pleasant manner ensured 
for her a certain social success which was very 
useful to her in her career as an artist. She 
received invitations from all quarters and was soon 
to be found at all the smartest gatherings of Paris, 
where she was able to observe the grand manners 
and brilliant conversations, of which she has left so 
delightful an account in her Memoirs. 

Her first debut as an artist before the public 
was at the exhibition of the Academy of Saint Luc 
in August 1774, at the age of nineteen. Her fame 
grew by leaps and bounds. In 1776 she married 
M. Le Brun, a painter and dealer in pictures. 

In 1779 she painted the portrait of Marie- 
Antoinette, and from that time her reputation 
was established throughout Europe. The young 
Queen conceived a lasting affection for her and 
gave her every protection. It was owing to the 
intervention of Marie- Antoinette that Mme Vigee- 
Le Brun was received into the French Academy 
without the customary ballot. 

The doors of her house in the Rue de Cldry 
now opened to receive the most distinguished and 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

wittiest people of the age. Her salon became 
famous throughout Europe. Of the famous people 
that frequented it, and of the delights that were 
enjoyed there, she has left us a charming account 
in her Memoirs, The latter are all the more 
interesting and moving because they portray a 
brilliant and agreeable society that was amusing 
itself apparently with no suspicion of the terrible 
days in store, when so many of the revellers were 
to lose their heads on the scaffold. 

Her meteoric success was not without its darkness. 
She was cruelly calumniated, especially regarding 
her relations with a Minister she had painted. 

Her passion for painting lasted all her life. At 
sixty-eight she was able to write : " Painting is 
always for me a distraction that will only end 
when I die." Nevertheless, she was able to find 
another in writing her Memoirs, These appeared 
in three volumes in 1835-37. They took the 
form of a series of letters addressed to her old 
friend Princess Kourakin, whose acquaintance she 
had made during her long sojourn at the Court 
of the Empress Catherine H in Russia. 

Madame Vigee-Le Brun died in Paris on the 
29th May, 1842, at the age of eighty-seven, 
leaving a world grateful both for her paintings 
and for her lively Memoirs. 

Although the three volumes of Memoirs have 
previously been translated into English, that 
section of this book — "Notes and Portraits" — has 
not previously been translated. 

G. S. 

From an engraving by Catkelin (1770). 

To face p. lo* 

Memoirs of Mme Elisabeth 
Louise Vigee-Le Brun 


My childhood — My parents — / am sent to a convent — My passion 
for painting — My father's circle — Doyen^ Poinsinet, Davesne — 
/ leave the convent — My brother. 

me so warmly to write my memoirs for 
you, that I have decided to satisfy your 
desire. Imagine what it will mean to my heart 
to recall the various events I have witnessed and 
the friends who exist no more save in my thoughts ! 
Nevertheless, the task will be an easy one, for my 
heart loves to remember, and in my hours of 
loneliness those dear departed friends surround 
me still, so vivid do they appear to my imagina- 
tion. Moreover, I will add to my story the notes 
I took at different times of my life on a number 
of people who sat to me for their portraits and 
who, for the greater part, belonged to my circle 
of society. Thanks to this help, the sweetest 
moments of my life will be made known to you 
as intimately as I know them myself. 

1 1 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

I will take first of all, dear friend, my earliest 
years, because it was in them that the nature of 
my future life was foreseen, my love of painting 
having revealed itself in my childhood. I was 
sent to a convent at the age of six and remained 
there till I was eleven. During that time I was 
always busy with the pencil, drawing whenever 
and wherever I could. My writing books, and 
even those of my school-fellows, were filled with 
marginal drawings of litde heads and profiles. 
On the dormitory walls I would draw faces and 
landscapes with coloured chalks. As you may 
suppose, I was often punished. In the intervals 
of recreation I used to trace in the sand everything 
that came into my head. I remember drawing 
by lamp-light, at the age of seven or eight, the 
portrait of a man with a beard, which I have kept 
ever since. I showed it to my father, who was 
delighted and exclaimed : " You will be a painter, 
my child, if ever there was one." 

I mention all this in order to show that my 
passion for painting was born in me. This passion 
has never weakened ; in fact, I believe it has done 
nothing but increase with the passage of time, 
for even to this day I feel all its charm, which 
will not cease, I hope, except with my life. More- 
over, it is to this divine passion that I owe not 
only my fortune but my happiness as well, since 
in my young days, as at the present time, it has 
brought me into touch with all the most agreeable 
and distinguished men and women of Europe. 
The remembrance of so many remarkable persons 


Memoirs of Madame Elisaheth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

I have known often imparts a charm to my solitude. 
Thereby I still live with those who are no more, 
and my thanks are due to Providence for having 
left me this reflection of a bygone happiness. 

As my health at the convent was very weak, 
my father and mother would often come and 
take me away to stay with them for a few days, 
a proceeding which charmed me in every respect. 
My father, whose name was Vigee, was very good 
at pastel painting ; some of his portraits are worthy 
of Latour. He painted also in oils in the manner 
of Watteau. The one you have seen at my house, 
has an excellent colouring and is ingeniously 
executed. But, coming back to the pleasures I 
enjoyed in my childhood's home, I must tell you 
that my father allowed me to paint several heads 
in pastels and also to dabble with his crayons all 

He was so deeply in love with his art that he 
was often absent-minded. I remember how one 
day, being dressed for dining out, he left the 
house, but returned a short while after in order 
to give a few touches to a picture he had just 
begun. He took off his wig, put on a nightcap, 
and went out again with the cap on his head and 
wearing a gold-laced coat, a sword at his side, etc. 
Had not a neighbour apprised him of his absent- 
mindedness, he would have gone all round the 
town in that costume. 

My father had plenty of wit. His natural good 
spirits infected everybody, and it was on account 
of his delightful conversation that people came to 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

have their portraits painted by him. Perhaps you 
already know the following anecdote ? One day, 
being at work on the portrait of a rather pretty 
woman, he noticed that when he was doing her 
mouth she incessantly twisted it up in order to 
make it smaller. Losing patience with this way 
of going on, my father said to her very coolly : 
" Don't put yourself out like that, Madam. If 
you wish, I will paint you with no mouth 
at all." 

My mother was very beautiful. This fact is 
brought out in the pastel portrait of her which 
my father made, and in the oil painting which I 
made later. Her character was austere. My 
father adored her like a divinity ; but low females 
swept him off his feet. New Year's Day was a 
feast day for him : he would walk about all Paris 
without paying a single visit, merely to embrace 
all the girls he met under the pretext of wishing 
them a happy New Year. 

My mother was very pious. I, too, was pious 
at heart. We used always to hear High Mass 
and attend the services of the Church. During 
Lent especially we never missed any, not even 
the evening prayers. I have always been fond of 
religious music, while at that time the sound of 
the organ used to make such an impression on 
me that I could not help shedding tears. Now 
the sound of the organ always reminds me of my 
father's loss. 

At that period, my father was in the habit of 
gathering together in the evening several artists 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

and men of letters. Foremost among these was 
Doyen, the painter of historical subjects. He was 
my father's intimate companion and my first 
friend. (Doyen was the best man in the world, 
full of wit and sagacity. His appreciations of 
men and things were always perfectly true. More- 
over, he used to speak about painting with so 
much warmth that he made my heart beat.) 
Another celebrity was Poinsinet, who was very 
witty and gay. Perhaps you have heard talk of 
his amazing credulity. It was continually laying 
him open to the weirdest mystifications. One 
day, for instance, he allowed himself to be per- 
suaded that there existed the office of Fire-screener 
to the King. Accordingly, he was placed before 
a fire fierce enough to roast his calves. However 
much he desired to get away from the heat, he 
told : " Don't stir ! You must get accus- 


tomed to the great heat, otherwise you will not 
get the office ! " Nevertheless, Poinsinet was far 
from being a fool. Several of his works are still 
admired nowadays, and he was the first man of 
letters to obtain three dramatic successes the same 
evening : Ernelide^ at the Grand Opera ; Le 
CerclCi at the Theatre Frangais ; and Tom Jones, 
at the Op^ra Comique. Someone said regarding 
Le Cercle, in which the society of that period is 
so well portrayed, that Poinsinet must have eaves- 
dropped at the doors. Poinsinet's end was most 
tragic. Somebody gave him the taste for travel. 
He started with Spain and perished in crossing the 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

I must mention a man called Davesne, painter 
and poet, who was rather mediocre in both these 
arts, but whose very witty conversation secured 
for him the privilege of being admitted to my 
father's evenings. Here is a sample of his verses, 
which I have somehow always remembered and 
which, I believe, have never been printed : 

Plus n'est le temps, oil de mes seuls couplets 

Ma Lise aimait a se voir celebree ; 

Plus n'est le temps oil de mes seuls bouquets 

Je la voyais toujours paree. 

Les vers que I'amour me dictait 
Ne repetaient que le nom de Lisette, 

Et Lisette les ecoutait. 
Plus d'un baiser payait ma chansonette j 
Au mSme prix qui n'eut ete poete ? ^ 

Although I was little more than a child at the 
time, I remember quite well how merry these 
suppers of my father were. I was made to leave 
the table before the dessert, but from my bedroom 
I could hear the laughter, the mirth, and the songs, 
of which I couldn't understand a word, it is true, 
but which, for all that, made my holidays a time 
of delight. 

At the age of eleven I left the convent for 
good, after having made my first Communion. 
Davesne, who painted in oils, asked to be allowed 
to teach me how to use the palette. His wife 

* " Gone are the days when my Lise loved to see herself celebrated in my 
verse alone. Gone are the days when I saw her adorned with my nosegays 
alone. The verses dictated to me by Love knew no other name but Lisette, 
and Lisette listened to them. Many a kiss was my song's reward. Who 
would not have been a poet at the same price ? " 


Memoirs of Madame Elisaheth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

would take me to his house. They were so poor 
that they filled me with sadness and pity. One 
day, as I wished to finish painting a head I had 
started, they made me stay to dinner with them. 
It consisted of soup and some baked apples. I 
think they never got a regular meal except when 
they had supper at my father's. 

I was immensely happy in not leaving my 
parents any more. My brother, who was three 
years younger than myself, was as beautiful as an 
angel. His intelligence was far beyond his age. 
He was so successful in his studies that he always 
returned from school with the most flattering 
reports. I was far from having his vivacity, wit, 
and above all, his handsome face ; for at that 
period of my life I was ugly. I had an enormous 
forehead and deep-set eyes ; my nose was the 
only pretty feature of my pale, thin face. Besides, 
I had grown so rapidly that I found it impossible 
to keep upright ; I bent like a reed. These 
deficiencies grieved my mother. Indeed, I fancied 
she had a weakness for my brother, for she pam- 
pered him and readily forgave him his youthful 
shortcomings, whereas she was very severe with 
me. On the other hand, my father loaded me 
with kindness and indulgence. His tenderness 
endeared him more and more to my heart, so 
much so that he is always before my mind, and 
I do not think I have forgotten one word of what 
he said in my presence. How often did I recall 
in 1789 the following trait as though it were a 
sort of prophecy ! One day, as my father was 

B 17 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise VigSe-Le Brun 

coming away from a dinner of the Intellectuals, 
at which Diderot, Helvetius, and d'Alembert were 
present, he seemed so sad that my mother asked 
him what was the matter. " All what I've just 
heard, my dear friend," he replied, *' makes me 
think that the world will soon be upside down." 


Dranvn by G. Rotari. 

To face p. 19. 


Death of my father — Our sorrow — I work in Briard's atelier — 
Joseph Fernet ; the advice he gave me — The Ahhe Arnault — 
/ visit picture-galleries — My mother marries again — My step- 
father — / paint portraits — Count Orloff- — Count Shouvaloff- — 
Fisit of Mme Geoffrin — The Duchess de Chartres — The 
Palais Royal — Mile Duthe — Mile Boquet. 

told you of my joys alone ; I must now 
tell you of the first affliction which my 
heart suffered, the first sorrow I experienced. 

I had just spent a year of happiness in my 
parents' house, when my father fell ill. He had 
swallowed a fish-bone, which lodged in his stomach 
and necessitated several incisions in order to ex- 
tract it. The operations were carried out by the 
cleverest surgeon of the time, a Brother Come, 
in whom we had the fullest confidence, and who 
looked like a saint. Notwithstanding the great 
devotion with which he looked after my father, 
the wounds festered, and at the end of two months* 
ufl^'ering my father's condition left no hope of 
'ecovery. My mother wept day and night. As 
or myself, I will not attempt to describe my 
desolation : I was about to lose the best of fathers, 
my support, my guide, the one whose indulgence 
encouraged my first attempts ! 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

When he realized his end was approaching, my 
father sent for my brother and me. We went up 
to the bed, sobbing. His face was terribly altered ; 
his eyes and facial expression, which had always 
been so lively, showed no longer any movement. 
The paleness and chill of death had already taken 
possession of him. We took his icy hand and 
covered it with kisses mingled with our tears. 
He made an effort to raise himself in order to 
bestow his blessing upon us. ** Be happy, my 
children," he said. An hour later our excellent 
father was no more (May 9, 1768). 

My sorrow was so overwhelming that I was 
unable to return to my painting for a long time. 
Doyen often came to see us. As he had been 
my father's closest friend, his visits brought us 
great consolation. It was owing to his persuasion 
that I resumed my beloved occupation, which, in 
fact, proved to be the only distraction capable of 
assuaging my sorrow and reclaiming me from 
my sad thoughts. It was about that time that 1 
commenced painting from nature. I made several 
portraits in pastels and oils. I also drew from 
nature and from casts, mostly by lamp-light, with 
Mile Boquet, whose acquaintance I had then 
made. I used to visit her in the evening at hei 
house in the Rue St. Denis, facing the Rue de 
la Truanderie, where her father kept a curiosity 
shop. The distance was fairly long, as we wert 
living in the Rue de Clery opposite the Luben 
mansion ; so my mother always had me accom- 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Mile Boquet and I would often betake ourselves, 
for the purpose of drawing, to the house of Briard, 
the painter, who lent us his models and ancient 
busts. Briard was an indifferent painter, although 
he executed several ceilings remarkable for their 
composition. He was, however, a very fine 
sketcher, a fact which induced several young 
people to take lessons from him. He lived at the 
Louvre. In order to draw as long as possible, 
we both used to take our lunch with us in 
a small basket carried by a maid. I still remember 
how we treated ourselves by buying from the 
concierge of one of the doors of the Louvre pieces 
of bceuj a la mode, which were so excellent that I 
cannot recall having ever eaten anything better. 

Mile Boquet was then eleven years old, while 
I was fourteen. We vied with each other in 
beauty ; for I have forgotten to tell you, dear 
friend, I had undergone a metamorphosis and 
grown pretty. Her capabilities for painting were 
remarkable, while my own progress was so rapid 
that I began to be talked about among people 
with the result that I had the satisfaction of making 
the acquaintance of Joseph Vernet. That cele- 
brated artist gave me great encouragement and 
excellent advice. ** My child," he said, " don't 
follow any system of school. Only consult the 
works of the great Italian and Flemish masters. 
But above all, work as much as you can from 
nature. Nature is the first of all masters. If 
you study it carefully, you will avoid falling into 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

I have always followed his advice, for I have 
never had an actual master. As for Joseph Vernet, 
he proved the excellence of his method by his 
works, which have always been and will be 
rightly admired. 

About that time I also made the acquaintance 
of the Abb^ Arnault, of the French Academy. 
He possessed a rich imagination and was pas- 
sionately fond of good literature and the Arts, 
and it was to his conversation that I owe my 
enrichment in ideas, if I may use such an expres- 
sion. He spoke of painting and music with the 
liveliest enthusiasm. He was an ardent supporter 
of Gluck, and later on brought that musician to 
my house ; for I also loved music passionately. 

My mother grew proud of my looks and figure, 
as I had begun to put on flesh and show the 
freshness of youth. She would take me to the 
Tuileries on Sundays. She was herself still very 
beautiful, and since so many years have passed 
since then, I can tell you now that we were followed 
about in such a way that I was much more em- 
barrassed thereby than flattered. 

Perceiving that I was still under the impres- 
sion of my cruel loss, my mother took it into her 
head to lead me round the picture-galleries. She 
showed me the Luxembourg Palace, where the 
gallery then contained some masterpieces by 
Rubens, while many rooms were full of the 
greatest masters.^ These pictures have since been 

' At present the pictures of modern French painters are displayed there 
I am the only one to have nothing in this collection (1835). 


Dranvn by Madame he Brun (Muse'e du Lowvre). 

To face p. 23. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

removed to the Museum, while those of Rubens 
lose much by being no longer seen in the place 
where they were made ; well or badly lighted 
pictures are like well or badly performed plays. 

We used also to pay visits to private collections. 
Randon de Boisset possessed a gallery of Flemish 
and French pictures. The Duke of Praslin and 
the Marquis de Levis had rich collections of the 
great masters of every school. M. Harent de 
Presle had a great number of Italian masters ; 
but none of these collections could be compared 
with that of the Palais Royal, which was brought 
together by the Regent and contained so many 
masterpieces of Italy. It was sold at the time of 
the Revolution, the greater part being purchased 
by Lord Stafford. 

As soon as I set foot inside one of these rich 
galleries I could be truly compared to a bee, so 
many were the bits of knowledge and useful 
remembrances that I gathered for my art while 
intoxicating myself with delight in the contem- 
plation of the great masters. Moreover, in order 
to strengthen my grasp, I copied several Rubens, 
some heads by Rembrandt and Van Dyck, to- 
gether with girls' heads' by Greuze, because the 
latter were extremely helpful in explaining the 
half-tones to be found in delicate flesh colours. 
Van Dyck also shows them, but more finely. 

To this work I owe the important study of the 
gradation of light on the outstanding parts of 
the head. I have always admired this gradation 
in the heads of Raphael, which assemble, it is 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

true, all the perfections. It is only in Rome, 
under the beautiful sky of Italy, that one can 
really judge Raphael. When I was able later 
on to see those of his masterpieces which have 
never left their native land, I found Raphael 
superior to his immense renown. 

My father left no fortune ; but I was already 
earning a good deal of money, having lots of 
portraits to paint. This, however, was insufficient 
to pay the expenses of our household, especially 
as I had to pay my brother's college fees, provide 
him with clothes, books, etc. So my mother 
found herself obliged to marry again. She married 
a rich jeweller, whom we had never suspected of 
avarice, yet who turned out immediately after 
the marriage to be so mean that he denied us 
even the necessary, although I was good-natured 
enough to give him all that I earned. Joseph 
Vernet was very much upset about it. He con- 
stantly urged me to pay a fixed sum for my board 
and lodging and to keep the remainder. I did 
nothing of the sort, however, fearing lest my 
mother would have to suffer from such a skin- 

I detested that man, the more so because he 
had taken possession of my father's wardrobe and 
wore his clothes without even troubling to have 
them adjusted to his own requirements. You can 
well imagine, my dear friend, what a sad impression 
he made on me. 

As I have already mentioned, I had many 
portraits to paint, and my budding reputation 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

already brought me the visits of a number of 
strangers. Several important Russians came to 
see me, among others the famous Count Orlojff, 
one of the assassins of Peter III. He was a 
colossal man, and I remember he wore an enormous 
diamond on his finger. 

I painted almost at once the portrait of Count 
ShouvalofF. He was then about sixty years old, 
I believe, and had been the lover of Elisabeth II. 
He united a benevolent politeness with a perfect 
manner, and as he was an excellent man, he was 
much sought after by the best people. 

About the same time I received a visit from 
Mme Geoffrin, the woman who is celebrated for 
her salon. She used to gather together at her 
house all the most distinguished men of letters 
and artists, outstanding foreigners, and the highest 
gentlemen of the Court. Without birth, talents, 
or even much of a fortune, she had carved out for 
herself an unequalled position in Paris that no 
woman could arrive at nowadays. Having heard 
of me, she came to see me one morning and told 
me most flattering things about my person and 
talent. Although she was not very old at the 
time, I should have thought she was a hundred. 
Not only was she slightly bent, but her costume 
made her look much older. She wore an iron- 
grey dress and a big butterfly bonnet, decked 
with a black kerchief fastened under the chin. 
Nowadays, women of a similar age know how to 
make themselves look younger by the care they 
bestow on their toilette. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

Immediately after my mother's marriage, we 
went to live at my stepfather's house in the Rue 
St. Honore, opposite the terrace of the Palais 
Royal, on to which my windows opened. I often 
saw the Duchess de Chartres walking about the 
garden with her ladies, and I soon noticed that 
she looked at me in a kind and interested manner. 
I had just finished my mother's portrait, which 
was causing a great stir. The Duchess sent for 
me to paint her at her apartments. She inspired 
all about her with the extreme benevolence she 
showed towards my youthful talent, so that it 
was not long before I was visited by the great 
and beautiful Countess de Brionne and her daughter, 
the Princess de Lorraine, who was extremely 
beautiful, and then by all the great ladies of the 
Court and the Faubourg Saint Germain. 

Since I have gone so far, dear friend, as to own 
that I was always stared after at the promenades 
and shows, even to the extent of being mobbed, 
you can readily understand that several admirers 
of my looks made me paint theirs in the hope of 
securing my pleasure. I was, however, so much 
taken up with my art that I could by no means 
be distracted from it. Moreover, the moral and 
religious principles which my mother had taught 
me were a shield against the seductions around 
me. I was lucky not to have read a single 
romance so far. The first I read [Clarissa Howe, 
which interested me enormously) was after my 
marriage. Till then I read nothing but books of 
piety, the moral teaching of the Holy Fathers 

A portrait of Madame Le Bruit and her daughter. 

To face p 26. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

among others, of which I never grew tired, as 
everything is in them, and a few class-books of 
my brother. 

With regard to the gentlemen, as soon as I 
realized they wished to make eyes at me, I painted 
them with their gaze averted ; which prevents 
the sitter from looking at the painter. At the 
least movement of their pupils in my direction, I 
would say : " I'm doing the eyes." That would 
annoy them a little, as you can imagine, but my 
mother, who was always with me and in my con- 
fidence, would laugh to herself. ^ 

After hearing High Mass on Sundays and 
festivals, my mother and stepfather would take 
me to the Palais Royal for a walk. At that time 
the park was infinitely larger and more beautiful 
than it is at present, stifled and shrunk by the 
houses surrounding it on all sides. On the left- 
hand side there was a very broad and long avenue 
of enormous trees, which formed an overhead 
vault impenetrable to the sun's rays. It was 
there that fashion assembled in very grand attire. 
The lesser lights took refuge at a distance under 
the chess-board trees. 

The Opera was close by in those days, bordering 
on the Palace. In summer, the show ended at 
half-past eight o'clock, and all the elegant people 
came out, even before the end, to walk about 

I The Marquis de Choiseul was one of them, and this fact roused my 
indignation, for he had just married the prettiest person in the world. She 
iw^as called Mile Raby, an American, aged sixteen. I do not believe anything 
imore perfect has ever been seen. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisaheth Louise Vigie-Le Brun 

the grounds. It was the fashion for women to 
carry very large nosegays, which, together with 
the scented powders on their hair, literally em- 
balmed the air one breathed. Later, though before 
the Revolution, I have known these gatherings 
continue till two in the morning. There were 
musical performances by moonlight in the open. 
Amateurs and artists, among others Garat and 
Azevedo, used to sing, while others played the 
harp and guitar. The famous Saint-Georges 
played the violin. There was always a dense 

It was there that I first saw the pretty and 
elegant Mile Duthe, who was walking in the 
company of other kept women. It was not ad- 
missible in those days for a man to appear in 
public with those young ladies. If men joined 
them at the show, it was always in boxes behind 
grills. The English are much less delicate on 
that score. This same Mile Duthe was often 
accompanied by an Englishman, who was so 
faithful that I saw them together at the show in 
London eighteen years afterwards. The English- 
man's brother was with him, and I was told that 
they all three lived together. You have no idea, 
my dear, what the kept women of that period 
were like. Mile Duthe, for instance, swallowed 
up millions of money. Nowadays the position 
of a courtesane is a lost one : no one thinks < 
ruining himself for a girl. 

The latter word reminds me of a saying of the 
Duchess de Chartres, whose naivet^ I like. I 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

have already mentioned to you that princess, a 
worthy daughter of the virtuous and beneficent 
Duke de Penthievre. Some time after her mar- 
riage she was standing at the window, when one 
of her gentlemen, seeing some of those girls go 
by, remarked : *' There are some girls." — " How 
can you know they are not married ? " asked the 
Duchess in all her candid ignorance. 

It was impossible for Mile Boquet and me to 
walk down that great avenue of the Palais Royal 
without attracting attention. We were then be- 
tween sixteen and seventeen years old. Mile 
Boquet was very beautiful. At nineteen she had 
smallpox, the news of which affliction awoke such 
interest in all classes of society that crowds of 
people flocked to make inquiries after her condi- 
tion, while a large number of carriages were 
constantly at her door. In those days Beauty 
was in truth a thing of celebrity. Mile Boquet 
was remarkably gifted for painting, but she aban- 
doned it almost entirely after she had married 
M. Filleul, when the Queen appointed her wardress 
of the Chateau de la Muette. 

How can I mention this lovable woman to you 
without recalling her tragic end } Alas ! I re- 
member that when I was on the point of leaving 
France in order to escape the horror I foresaw, 
Mme Filleul said to me : " You are wrong to 
leave. I will stay, because I believe in the happi- 
ness which the Revolution will bring us." 

And that Revolution led her to the scaffold ! 
She was still at the Chateau de la Muette when 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

the time came which is so justly called the Terror. 
Mme Chalgrin, daughter of Joseph Vernet and 
the intimate friend of Mme Filleul, went to the 
chateau to celebrate her daughter's marriage, with- 
out any fuss, as you can well imagine. Never- 
theless, on the following day the revolutionaries 
found a pretext for arresting Mme Chalgrin and 
Mme Filleul, who were accused of burning the 
candies of the nation. They were both guillotined 
a few days later. 

Here I will end this sad letter. 



To face p. 30. 

hti armrfMir'MiiiiinnirBMfti'iiaiilftteiilii 


My walks — The Colisee, the Vauxhall d'Eie — Marly, Sceaux — 
My society in Paris — The sculptor Le Moine — Gerbier — 
The Princess de Rohan- Rochefort — The Countess de Brionne — 
Cardinal de Rohan — M. de Rulhieres — The Duke de Lawzun 
— 1 offer to the French Academy the portraits of Cardinal 
de Fleury and de la Bruyere — d^ Alemherf s letter and visit 
on that occasion, 

I WILL GO ON, dear friend, with the story 
of my outings in what I may call old Paris 
on account of the great many changes which 
that city has undergone since the days of my 
youth. One of the most frequented promenades 
was that of the Boulevards du Temple. Every 
day, especially Thursday, saw hundreds of car- 
riages coming and going or standing about the 
avenues where there are now cafes and parades. 
Young people on horseback pranced about them, 
as at Longchamp, which was already in existence.^ 
The avenues and side-walks were crowded with 
strollers enjoying the pleasure of admiring or 
criticizing the beautiful ladies in grand attire who 
passed by in their brilliant equipages. 

I It was even very brilliant. The kept girls spent fortunes in order to 
eclipse the rest of the world. One used to talk of a certain Mile Renard, 
who appeared one day in a carriage drawn by four horses in harnesses 
covered with sham jewels, the diamonds being indistinguishable from real 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigie-Le Brun 

One side of the boulevard, where the Cafe 
Turc is now situated, afforded a sight which 
made me burst into fits of laughter many a time. 
It was a long row of old women from the Marais 
Institution, all solemnly sitting on chairs, and 
whose cheeks were so daubed with rouge that 
they looked like dolls. As at that time only 
women of high rank were permitted to wear red, 
these ladies considered themselves obliged to exer- 
cise the privilege to its fullest extent. One of 
our friends who was acquainted with most of 
them, told us their only occupation was playing 
lotto from morn to night and that coming back 
from Versailles one day, he was asked for news 
by some of them. He replied that M. de La 
Perouse was about to start out on a journey round 
the world. " Indeed ! " exclaimed the mistress of 
the house, " that man must be sadly in need of 

Later on, a good while after my marriage, I 
went to many shows on that boulevard. The 
one I saw and enjoyed most was that of the puppets 
of Carlo Perico. These marionettes were so 
well made and so dexterously manipulated that 
they sometimes achieved a perfect illusion. My 
daughter, who was six years old at most, and whom 
I took with me, had no doubt at first of their 
being alive. When I told her the contrary, I 
remember taking her a few days later to the 
Comedie Fran9aise, where my box was fairly 
remote from the stage. " And those. Mamma," 
she said to me, " are they alive } " 


Memoirs of Madame Elisaheth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

The Colisee was still a very fashionable place 
of gathering. It consisted of an immense circle 
built in one of the great squares of the Champs 
Elysees. In the middle was a lake of limpid 
water on which boating tournaments took place. 
People strolled about the broad, sandy avenues 
which were ornamented with seats. At nightfall, 
everybody left the garden and entered an immense 
hall where an excellent programme of music was 
provided every evening. Mile Lemaure, a celebrity 
of that time, sang there several times, as did also 
many other famous women singers. The broad 
terrace which led to this hall was the rendezvous 
of all the gilded youth of Paris, who stood under 
the lighted porch and let no woman pass without 
making her the subject of an epigram. One 
evening as I was coming down the steps with my 
mother, the Duke de Chartres, since known as 
Philippe-Egalite, stood there with his arm in 
that of the Marquis de Genlis, his companion in 
orgy, while the unfortunate women who attracted 
their attention did not escape the most infamous 
sarcasms. " Ah ! as for that one," said the Duke 
in a very loud voice as he pointed to me, " there's 
nothing to be said." This remark, which was 
heard by many persons besides myself, gave me 
so great a satisfaction that I remember it even 
to-day with a certain amount of pleasure. 

About the same time there existed on the 
Boulevard du Temple a place called the Vauxhall 
i'Et^, the garden of which was nothing more 
Jian a large space for walking about in, and 

c 33 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bruft 

round which were covered tiers where fine people 
used to sit. They forgathered in the daytime 
in summer, and the evening would end up with a 
very fine display of fireworks. 

All these places were even more fashionable 
than Tivoli is at present. It is somewhat sur- 
prising that Parisians, whose only promenades are 
the Tuileries and the Luxembourg Gardens, should 
have abandoned these half-urban, half-rural estab- 
lishments where one could go for a breath of air 
and ices in the evening. 

My wretched stepfather — annoyed, no doubt, by 
the public tributes to my mother's beauty and 
I venture to say, to my own as well — forbade uj 
to go to the promenades, and told us one day 
that he was going to rent a country house. My 
heart beat for joy at the announcement, for J 
was deeply in love with the country. I wish 
all the more to stay there as I felt a great neec 
for it, since I was then sleeping at the foot oj 
my mother's bed, in an alcove where the daylighi 
never penetrated. Indeed, the first thing I die 
in the morning in all weathers was to open th( 
window for a breath of fresh air. 

So my stepfather rented a little house at Chaillot 
and we used to go there on Saturday, returning 
to Paris on Monday morning. Heavens ! what 5 
country house ! Just imagine, my dear, a tin] 
vicarage garden ; no trees, no other shelter frorr 
the sun except a little bower where my stepfathe; 
had planted some beans and nasturtiums whict 
wouldn't grow. Moreover, we had only a quartei 


yik feet 


iiMinTiniftn jTii m rniimi 


¥rom the painting by Madame he Brun. 

To face p. 35. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

of that charming garden, for it was divided into 
four by small sticks, the three other parts being 
let to some shop-fellows, who amused themselves 
there every Sunday with bird-shooting. The per- 
petual noise of this brought me into a state of 
despair. Besides which, I was dreadfully afraid 
of being killed by the clumsy fellows, who couldn't 
shoot straight at all. 

I could not understand how one could call so 
miserable a place a country house. I found it so 
wearisome that I yawn at the very memory of it 
in writing this. At last, however, my guardian 
angel sent me a friend of my mother's, Mme 
Suzanne, who came to dine at Chaillot with her 
lusband one day. They felt sorry for me and 
my weariness, and sometimes took me out for 
wonderful excursions. Unfortunately M. Suzanne 
could not be relied upon to come every Sunday, 
as he suffered from a strange disease. Every 
other day he would shut himself up in his room, 
refusing to see anybody, even his wife, and de- 
clining to speak or eat. The next day, however, 
he would recover his merriment and habitual 
planners. So it was necessary to keep oneself 
well posted with the state of his health in order 
to make any arrangements with him. 

We went first of all to Marly-le-Roi, and there 
[ realized for the first time how enchanting a 
place could be. On each side of the superb 
bateau were six pavilions, connected with each 
)ther by tunnels of jasmine and honeysuckle. 
Vlagnificent cascades of water fell from a mountain 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

at the rear of the chateau and formed an immense 
lake on which swam graceful swans. The fine 
trees, clumps of verdure, fountains and spirts of 
water, one of which rose so high that it was lost 
from sight, were all on a grand, majesdc scale 
that reminded one of Louis XIV. The sight of 
this ravishing abode made such an impression on 
me that I often returned there after my marriage. 
One morning I met the Queen walking in the 
park with several ladies of her Court. They 
were all wearing white dresses and were so young 
and pretty that they looked like an apparition. 
I was with my mother, and started to go away, 
when the Queen very kindly stopped me and 
desired me to go on walking wherever I pleased. 
Alas ! when I returned to France in 1802, I 
hastened to see my noble, laughing Marly once 
again. Palace, trees, cascades, fountain, every- 
thing had disappeared. 

M. and Mme Suzanne took me to see the 
chateau and park at Sceaux. The section of the 
park adjoining the chateau was laid out in 
regular fashion with lawns and flower-beds like 
the garden of the Tuileries. The other secdor 
had no symmetrical design, but a great stretch o: 
water and the finest trees I have ever seen mad« 
it much more preferable, in my opinion. Th< 
goodness of the owner of that magnificent abod< 
was shown by the fact that the park was open tc 
the public. The Duke de Penthievre had alway 
desired that the public should be admitted. 0\ 
Sundays especially, the park was much frequented 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

It was very distressing for me to leave those 
magnificent gardens in order to return to our 
sad Chaillot. However, with the arrival of winter 
we went to Paris, where I made pleasant use of 
the time which my work left me. Since the age 
of fifteen I had been going about in high society. 
I was acquainted with our foremost artists and 
received invitations on all sides. I well remember 
dining for the first time in town with the sculptor 
Le Moine, who was then much in vogue. He 
was extremely simple, but he showed good taste 
in gathering under his roof a great number of 
famous and distinguished men. His two daughters 
carried out the role of hostesses to perfection. 
It was there that I saw the celebrated Lekain, 
who frightened me with his lowering, wild aspect, 
his enormous eyebrows augmenting the graceless 
expression of his face. He never spoke, but ate 
enormously. Next to him and opposite me sat 
the prettiest woman in Paris, Mme de Bonneuil 
(mother of Mme Regnault Saint-Jean d'Angely), 
who was as fresh as a rose. Her gentle beauty was 
so charming that I was unable to take my eyes off 
her, especially as she had been placed near my 
husband, who was as ugly as a monkey, while the 
faces of Lekain and M. de Bonneuil formed a sort 
of double foil, which she certainly did not require. 

It was at Le Moine's house that I made the 
acquaintance of Gerbier, the celebrated advocate. 
Mme de Roissy, his daughter, was very beautiful 
and one of the first women I painted. Gretry 
,and Letour, the famous pastel painter, were often 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

present at these dinners, which were very merry. 
It was the custom of the time to sing at dessert. 
Mme de Bonneuil, who had a charming voice, 
sang duets by Gretry with her husband, after 
which came the turn of the young ladies, who, it 
must be admitted, felt like martyrs. They were 
seen to grow pale, tremble and often sing out of 
tune. In spite of these little discords, the dinner 
would end in merriment and one went away with 
regret, being loath to call for one's carriage on 
rising from table as is done nowadays. 

I cannot, however, speak of the dinners of to- 
day except from hearsay, as a short while after 
the one I have mentioned I gave up dining out. 
The daylight hours were really too valuable for 
me to sacrifice them to society, while a little event 
occurred which made me decide of a sudden 
never to go out at night again. I had accepted 
an invitation to dine with the Princess de Rohan- 
Rochefort. When I was dressed and ready to 
enter my carriage, the idea occurred to me to 
take another look at a portrait I had commenced 
that morning. I was wearing a white satin dress, 
which I had put on for the first time. I sat down 
on a chair in front of my easel entirely unaware 
that my palette was on it. My dress was in such 
a state when I got up that I was obliged to stay 
at home, and from that time I resolved never- 
more to accept invitations except to supper. 

The suppers of the Princess de Rohan-Rochefor 
were charming. Her society was chiefly mad< 
up of the beautiful Countess de Brionne, hei 


.." J--^-' *• ' Alt' 


'* f* ' i V PROMJ- > MM li'< SLl ' ^ 1*' ^ I V 


To face p, 39. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

daughter, the Princess de Lorraine, the Duke de 
Choiseul, Cardinal de Rohan, M. de Rulhieres, 
author of Les Disputes. But the most likeable of 
all the guests was undoubtedly the Duke de 
Lauzun, whose wit and merriment were beyond 
compare and charmed everybody. The evening 
was often spent with music and sometimes I sang, 
accompanying myself with a guitar. Supper was 
at half-past ten, and never more than ten or 
twelve sat down at table. The guests vied with 
one another in wit and pleasantness. I could 
only listen, as you may readily understand, and 
although I was too young to appreciate the charm of 
the conversation, I found it put me off many others. 
I have often told you, my dear friend, that my life 
as a girl was like no other. Not only was I received 
and sought after in the salons on account of my 
talent, weak though I found it in comparison with 
the great masters, but I sometimes received proofs of 
public good will, so to speak, which gave me much 
joy, I frankly admit. For instance, having made the 
portraits of Cardinal de Fleury and La Bruyere from 
some engravings of the time, I offered them to the 
French Academy, who sent me back the following 
letter through d'Alembert, the chief secretary : 


The French Academy has received with all possible 
acknowledgment the letter which you have addressed to it, 
together with the beautiful portraits of Fleury and La Bruyere 
which you have kindly sent it in order that they may be hung 
in its assembly hall, where it has long desired to see them. In 
reproducing for it the features of two men whose name it holds 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

in high esteem, these two portraits will constantly remind it, 
Mademoiselle, of all that it owes and is flattered to owe to you. 
Moreover, they will provide it with a lasting monument of your 
rare talents with which it was acquainted through the voice of 
the public and which are enhanced in you by wit, graciousness, 
and the most agreeable modesty. 

Wishing to reply to so praiseworthy an action as yours in the 
most fitting manner, the company begs you. Mademoiselle, to 
accept the right of entry to all its public assemblies. This was 
unanimously resolved upon at its assembly yesterday, and was 
immediately inserted in its registers, while I was charged to 
convey the assembly's decision to you and to offer you its thanks. 
This commission is all the more agreeable to me because it affords 
me the opportunity to assure you, Mademoiselle, of my high 
esteem for your talents and person, an esteem which I share 
with all persons of good taste and sound reason. 

I have the honour respectfully to be, Mademoiselle, your very 
humble and very obedient servant, 

Permanent Secretary to the French Academy. 

Paris, August lo, 1775. 

The offer of these two portraits to the Academy 
soon brought me the honour of a visit from 
d'Alembert, a small, cold, and dry man though 
meticulously polite. He stayed a long time and 
inspected my atelier, saying all sorts of flattering 
things to me. I have never forgotten how, just 
after his departure, a grand lady who had been 
present, asked me whether I had painted from 
nature the portraits of La Bruyere and Fleury 
that had just been talked about. " I'm a little 
too young for that," I replied, unable to suppress 
a laugh, but very glad for the poor lady's sake 
that the Academician was no longer present. 


My marriage — 1 receive ■pupils ; Mme Benoist — / give the school 
up — My portraits ; how I arrange the dresses — The French 
Academy — My daughter — The Duchess de Mazarin — The 
Ambassadors of Tippoo-Sahib — / paint their portraits — They 
entertain me to dinner. 

Y STEPFATHER having retired from 
business, we went to reside at a mansion 
called Lubert, in the Rue de Clery. M. 
Le Brun had just bought this house and was 
living there. As soon as we were settled, I went 
to see the magnificent pictures of every school 
Df painting with which his apartment was filled. 
I was delighted to have a neighbour who afforded 
nne every chance of consulting the works of the 
^reat masters. M. Le Brun was extremely kind 
.n lending me pictures of admirable beauty and 
are value for the purpose of making copies. It 
A^as to him, therefore, that I owed the strongest 
essons I was able to get, till at the end of six 
nonths he begged for my hand in marriage. I 
A^as far from any wish to marry, although he 
vas very well made and good-looking. I was 
htn twenty years old and leading a life free from 
my anxiety as to my future, for I was earning 
I good deal of money and felt no desire whatever 
:o get married. But my mother, who thought 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

M. Le Brun to be very rich, unceasingly urged 
me not to refuse such a profitable match, and al 
last I consented to the marriage,^ desiring above 
all to escape from the torment of living with my 
stepfather, whose bad humour had grown more 
and more each day since his idleness. So small, 
however, was my enthusiasm to give up my freedom, 
that on the way to the church I kept saying tc 
myself : " Shall I say yes ? Shall I say no ? '* Alas. 
I said ** yes," and changed my old troubles for nev\ 

Not that M. Le Brun was a bad man : hii 
character showed a mixture of gentleness anc 
vivacity ; he was very obliging towards everybody— 
in a word, likeable enough ; but his unbridlec 
passion for women of bad morals, joined to hi 
fondness for gambling, brought about the ruii 
of his fortune as well as mine, which was entirel] 
in his keeping. Indeed, when I left France ii 
1789, 1 had not so much as twenty francs of income 
though I had earned more than a million. H^ 
had squandered the lot. 

For some time my marriage was kept secret 
M. Le Brun had intended marrying the daughte: 
of a Dutchman with whom he did much busines 
in paintings, and begged me not to announo 
our marriage until he concluded his affairs, 
agreed to this with all the more willingness because 
I regretted giving up my maiden name, by whicl 
I was very well known. Though the myster 
lasted but a short while, it was destined to hav 

I January 11, 1776, at the church of St. Eustache, Paris. 



Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

an evil effect on my future. Many persons, under 
the impression that I was merely about to marry 
M. Le Brun, visited me with the purpose of 
dissuading me from such a foolish act. One of 
them was Aubert, the Crown jeweller, who said 
to me in a friendly manner : " You would do 
better to tie a stone round your neck and throw 
yourself into the river than to marry Le Brun.'* 
Another was the Duchess d'Aremberg, accom- 
panied by Mme de Canillac and Mme de Souza, 
wife of the Portuguese Ambassador, all three so 
young and pretty, who brought me their tardy 
advice a fortnight after my marriage. " In the 
name of Heaven," said the Duchess, " don't marry 
M. Le Brun. You would be too unhappy ! " 
Then she related to me a lot of things which 
I was lucky enough not to believe altogether, 
although they have since turned out to be only 
too true ; but my mother, who was present, 
could scarcely hold back her tears. 

Finally the announcement of my marriage put 
an end to these sad warnings, from which my 
habitual gaiety had suffered litde, thanks to my 
dear painting. I was unable to cope with all 
the demands for portraits which poured in from 
all quarters, and although M. Le Brun had already 
acquired the habit of pocketing the fees, he even 
took it into his head to make me take some pupils 
in order to increase our income. I yielded to 
his wish without troubling to think it over, and 
I soon had several young ladies to whom I 
showed how to paint eyes, noses and faces, which 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

constantly needed touching up, much to my disgust 
and the neglect of my own work. 

One of my pupils was Mile Emilie De La Ville 
Le Roulx, who afterwards married M. Benoist, 
Director of Law, and for whom Demoustiers 
wrote Lettres sur la Mythologie, She made pastel 
paintings of heads, in which one could already 
discern the talent which has given her a just 
celebrity. Mile Emilie was the youngest of my 
pupils, most of whom were older than myself, a 
fact which detracted enormously from the respect 
which the head of a school should impose. I 
had set up the atelier of these young ladies in a 
disused hayloft, the ceiling of which displayed 
very thick beams. One morning I discovered 
my pupils had tied a rope to one of the beams 
and were swinging to their hearts' content. I 
put on a serious look and reproved them, making 
a superb speech on wasting time ; whereupon d 
felt a strong desire to try the swing myself and 
was soon amusing myself on it more than all the 
others. You can imagine that such manners made 
it very difficult for me to overawe my pupils, 
and this inconvenience, together with the tedium 
of returning to the A B C of my art in correcting 
their studies, soon obliged me to give the school up. 

The obligation to leave my dear atelier for a 
few hours increased, I believe, my fondness for 
work. I did not lay down my brushes till night 
was quite fallen, and the number of portraits I 
painted at that period is really amazing. As I 
gready disliked the style of dress worn by the 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

women at that time, I did my best to make it a 
little more picturesque, and whenever I obtained 
the confidence of my models I delighted in draping 
them after my fancy. 

People had not yet taken to wearing shawls, 
but I made use of large scarves, lightly interlaced 
round the body and over the arms, whereby I 
tried to imitate the beautiful style of the draperies 
of Raphael and Dominichino, as you may have 
noticed in several of my portraits in Russia, 
especially in that of my Girl Playing the Guitar, 
Moreover, I loathed the use of powder, I 
persuaded the beautiful Duchess de Gramont- 
Caderousse not to use any when sitting for her 
portrait. I Her hair was as black as ebony, and I 
divided it up into irregular curls on the forehead. 
After my sitting, which ended at the hour of 
dinner, the Duchess retained her coiffure and 
went in it to the theatre. Such a pretty woman 
was sure to set the tone, and indeed the fashion 
grew gently, till at last it became general. This 
reminds me that when I painted the Queen in 
1786 I begged her not to put on any powder 
and to part her hair on the forehead. " I shall 
be the last to follow such a fashion," the Queen 
^aid with laughter ; " I don't wish it to be said 
that I have invented it in order to hide my large 

I tried as well as I could to give the women 
painted the attitude and expression of their 
physiognomy. As for those who had none, I 

I Exhibited at the Salon of 1785. 


Memoirs oj Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brut, 

painted them like dreamers reclining heedlessly, 
However, one must suppose they were satisfied, 
for I was unable to cope with the demands. Ii 
was difficult to get a place in my waiting list 
In a word, I was the fashion. Everything seemec 
to have conspired to make me so. You may well 
judge of the fact from the following scene, whicl: 
I always recall with flattery. Some time aftei 
my marriage, I was present at a sitting of the 
French Academy, when La Harpe read his speech 
on the talents of women. When he came to the 
following highly exaggerated lines, which I then 
heard for the first time — 

Le Brun, de la beaute le peintre et le modele, 

Moderne Rosalba, mais plus brillante qu'elle, 

Joint la voix de Favart au souris de Venus, etc. ^ — 

the author of Warwick turned his gaze towards me, 
Whereupon the entire public, not excepting the 
Duchess de Chartres and the King of Sweden 
who were present, stood up and faced me, applaud- 
ing me so frantically that I was almost overcome 
with confusion. 

These pleasures of conceit, which I relate to 
you, dear friend, because you demanded I should 
tell you everything, cannot be compared to the 
enjoyment I felt on learning, two years after my 
marriage, that I was with child. But here you 
will see how much I failed in foresight owing to 
my extreme affection for my art, for in spite of 

I " Le Brun, the painter and model of beauty, 

The Rosalba of our days, but more brilliant than she. 
Unites the voice of Favart with the smile of Venus," etc. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise VigSe-Le Brun 

my happiness at the idea of becoming a mother, 
I let the nine months of my labour go by without 
giving the least thought to the preparation of the 
things necessary to child-birth. On the day my 
daughter was born I did not quit my atelier, and 
continued working at my Venus Tying the Wings 
of Love, in the intervals between the throes. 

Mme de Verdun, my oldest friend, came to 
see me in the morning. She realized that I would 
be brought to bed during the day, and as she 
knew me, she asked me whether I was provided 
vvith all that was necessary ; to which I replied, 
ivith a look of astonishment, that I didn't know 
It all what was necessary. *' That's just like you," 
she said, " you are a real boy. I warn you that 
^ou will be brought to bed this evening." — " No, 
|io ! " I exclaimed, " I have a sitting to-morrow, 
will not go to bed to-day." Without troubling 
reply, Mme de Verdun left me for a moment 
send out for the man midwife, who arrived 
ilmost at once. I sent him away, but he hid in 
e house till the evening, when at ten o'clock 
y daughter came into the world. I will not 
Ittempt to describe the joy which overwhelmed 
ne when I heard my baby cry. Every mother 
:nows that joy ; it is all the more lively because 
t is accompanied by the repose following the 
ttrocious birth pangs. I think M. Dubois ex- 
pressed the thought perfecdy when he said : 
* Happiness is finding interest in calm." 

During my pregnancy I had painted the 
Duchess de Mazarin, who was no longer young, 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Bru\ 

but still beautiful. My daughter had the sam< 
kind of eyes and resembled her amazingly. Thii 
Duchess de Mazarin was said to have been endowec 
at her birth by three fairies : Riches, Beauty, anc 
Ill-Luck. It is perfectly true that the poor womar 
could never undertake anything, not even giving 
a party, without some misfortune or other turning 
up. Many misfortunes of her life have beer 
related, but here is one less known : One evening 
while entertaining sixty persons to supper, sh 
contrived to have on the table an enormous pie 
in which a hundred small birds were shut up alive 
At a sign from the Duchess the pie was opened anc 
all the frantic little creatures flew out, dashing int( 
faces and clinging to the hair of the women, wh( 
were all carefully attired and hair-dressed. You cai 
imagine the tempers, the shouts ! The unfortunat 
birds could not be got rid of, and were such 
nuisance that the guests were obliged to leave th 
table, cursing such a foolish flight of fancy. 

The Duchess de Mazarin had grown so ver 
stout that it took ages to do up her corsets, 
visitor coming to see her one day while she wa 
being laced, one of her women ran to the doo 
and cried out : " Don't come in till we've arranges 
the rolls of flesh." I remember that this excessiv 
plumpness aroused the admiration of the Turkis 
Ambassadors. When they were asked at the Oper 
which woman they liked best among those wh 
filled the boxes, they replied without hesitatioi 
that the Duchess de Mazarin was the mos 
beautiful because she was the fattest. 



temoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Talking of ambassadors, I must not forget to 
ill you how I painted two diplomats, who in 
)ite of being copper-coloured had splendid heads. 
1 1788 ambassadors were sent to Paris by the 
imperor Tippoo-Sahib. I saw these Indians at 
le Opera, and they appeared to me so unusually 
icturesque that I wished to paint their portraits, 
taving informed them of my desire, I learnt 
lat they would never consent to be painted 
ccept at the request of the King, so I obtained 
lis favour from His Majesty. I went with canvas 
id colours to the house they were living at, for 
ley wished to be painted at home. On my 
rival one of them brought some rose-water and 
irinkled it on my hands. Then the greater of 
lem, who was called Davich Khan, gave me a 
tting. I painted him standing with his hand 
I his dagger. He posed so agreeably that I was 
)le to do everything as it was — drapery, hands, 
I put the picture in another room to dry 
id began the portrait of the old ambassador 
;ting with his son beside him. The father 
pecially had a splendid head. Both were dressed 
white muslin robes, sprinkled with gold flowers, 
finished this picture at the time with the excep- 
m of the background and the bottom of the 

Mme de Bonneuil, to whom I had spoken of 
y sittings, wanted very much to meet these 
ibassadors. They invited us both to dinner, 
d we accepted the invitation out of sheer 
riosity. Entering the dining-room, we were 

D 49 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brt 

somewhat surprised to find the dinner served c 
the floor, and we were thus obliged to do as the 
did, lying almost flat round the low table. The 
offered us with their hands what they took froi 
the dishes, one of which contained a fricassee < 
sheep's feet with white sauce, very spicy, while tl 
other held a sort of ragout. As you can imagin 
it was a sad meal. We loathed watching them u 
their bronzed hands in the place of spoons. 

These ambassadors had brought with them 
young man who spoke French slighdy. Durir 
the sittings Mme de Bonneuil taught him 
sing Annette a Page de quinze ans. When v 
went to take leave, this young man recited \ 
song and expressed his sorrow at leaving us, sa" 
ing : " Ah ! how my heart weeps ! " Which 
thought very Oriental and very well said. 

When the portrait of Davich Khan was dry, 
sent for it. He had hidden it, however, behii 
his bed and refused to part with it, declarii 
that a soul was due to inhabit it, according to t 
Mahometan belief. This refusal gave rise 
some pretty verses addressed to me, which I co; 
here : 

A Madame Le Brun. 

Au sujet du portrait de Davich Khan et du prejuge des Orienti 
contre la peinture. 

Ce n'est point aux climats oCi regnent les sultans 
Que le marbre s'anime et la toile respire. 
Les prejuges de leurs imans 
Du dieu des arts ont renverse I'empire. 




Pi -5 

demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigie-Le Brun 

lis ont reve qu'Allah, jaloux de nos talents, 
Doit en jugeant les mondes et les ages 

Donner una ame a ces images. 
Qui sauvent la beaute des ravages du temps. 
Sublime Allah ! tu ris de cette erreur impie ! 

Tu conviendras, voyant cette copie. 
Oil I'art de la nature a surpris les secrets, 
Que comme toi, le genie a ses flammes j 
Et que Le Brun, en peignant des portraits, 

Sait aussi leur donner une ame.^ 

I was unable to get hold of my picture except 
y trickery. When the Ambassador discovered it 
^as gone, he blamed his valet and wanted to kill 
im. The interpreter was at his wits* end to 
lake him understand that it was not usual to 
ill one's valet in Paris, and he was obliged 
) tell him that the King of France had asked 
)r the portrait. 

Both these pictures were hung at the Salon 
1789. After the death of M. Le Brun, who 
aimed all my works, they were sold and I do 
ot know who owns them to-day. 

» To Madame Le Brun. 

apropos of the portrait of Dwvich Khan and the prejudice of Orientals against 


" It is not in climates where the sultans reign that marble comes to life and 
ivas breathes. The prejudices of their priests have overthrown the empire 
the god of Art. They have imagined that at the day of judgment Allah, 
ng jealous of our talents, must give a soul to likenesses, which save beauty 
m the ravages of time. Sublime Allah ! Thou laughest at this impious 
or ! Thou wilt agree, on seeing this copy, wherein Art has discovered 
secrets of Nature, that, like Thee, genius has its lustre } and that Le Bruu, 
painting portraits, knows how to give them a soul." 




The Queen — My sittings at Versailles — Various portraits of her 
by me — Her kind-heartedness — Louis XVI — The last Court\ 
hall at Versailles — Princess Elisabeth — The King's brother — 
The Princess de Lamballe. 

IT WAS IN THE YEAR 1779, my dear 
friend, that I painted my first portrait of 
the Queen, who was then in all the glory of 
her youth and beauty. Marie- Antoinette was tall, 
admirably shaped, and fairly plump. Her arms 
were superb, her hands small and of perfect shape, 
while her feet were charming. She walked better 
than any other woman in France, holding her 
head well up with a majesty that stamped her as 
sovereign in the midst of all her Court, without, 
however, detracting in any way from what was 
kind and gentle in her aspect. It is difficult, 
however, to convey to anyone who never saw 
the Queen an adequate idea of her noble traits 
and many graceful qualities. Her features were 
not at all regular ; she took after her family with 
the long narrow face peculiar to the Austrian 
nation. Her eyes were not large, and their colour 
was almost blue^ Her expression was bright and 
gentle, her nose fine and pretty, her mouth not 
too big, though the lips were rather strong. The 


Memoirs of Madame Elisaheth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

most remarkable thing about her face was the 
splendour of her complexion. 

I have never seen another so brilliant; for 
" brilliant " is the word : her skin was so transparent 
that it had no shading. I was unable to reproduce 
its effect to my satisfaction ; I lacked the colours 
necessary to paint the freshness and fine tones, 
which I have never found in any other woman. 

At my first sitting, the Queen's imposing aspect 
overawed me tremendously ; but Her Majesty 
spoke to me so kindly that this impression was 
soon dissipated. It was then that I painted the 
portrait representing her with a large basket, 
dressed in a satin robe and holding a rose in her 
hand. This portrait was intended for her brother, 
the Emperor Joseph II. The Queen ordered 
two copies of it, one for the Empress of Russia, 
the other for her apartments at Versailles or 

I painted several other portraits of the Queen 
at various times. In one of them I merely painted 
her as far as the knees, dressed in an orange- 
coloured robe and standing before a table, on 
which she was in the act of arranging some flowers 
in a vase. It is easy to realize that I preferred 
to paint her without grand attire and, above all, 
without a large basket. These portraits were given 
to her friends, some of them to ambassadors. 
One of them shows her wearing a straw hat and 
dressed in a white muslin robe, the sleeves of 
which were crimpled crosswise but fairly tight. 
When this portrait was exhibited at the Salon, 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

— — ^ .^ 

the evil-minded did not fail to say that the Queenl 
had had herself painted en chemise ; for it was 
the year 1786, and slander had already begun to 
make her its butt. 

Nevertheless, this portrait had a great success. 
Tow^ards the end of the exhibition a little play, 
called, I believe, La Reunion des Arts, was per- 
formed at the Vaudeville. Brongniart the architect 
and his wife, who were in the author's confidence, 
engaged a box and came to fetch me for the first 
performance. As I was entirely unaware of the 
surprise which had been prepared for me, you 
can judge of my emotion when the turn came to 
Painting and I saw the actress copy me in a sur- 
prising manner in the act of painting the Queen's 
portrait. At the same moment everybody in the 
boxes and parterre turned towards me and ap- 
plauded me tumultuously. And I do not believe 
it is possible for anyone to be so moved and grateful 
as I was that evening. 

The bashfulness I had felt at my first encounter 
with the Queen completely yielded to the gracious 
kindness which she always showed me. When 
Her Majesty heard that I possessed a nice voicCj 
she gave me few sittings without making me 
accompany her in several of Gretry's duets ; for 
she loved music immensely, though her voice was 
not quite accurate. As for her conversation, it 
would be hard for me to describe all its grace 
and kindness. I do not believe Queen Marie- 
Antoinette ever failed to say something pleasant 
to those who had the honour of approaching herj 



After Moreau, junior. 

To face p. 55. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

while the kindness she always showed to me is one 
of my sweetest memories. 

One day I happened to miss the appointment 
for a sitting which she had fixed. I was then 
well advanced in my second pregnancy and had 
suddenly felt ill. The following day I hastened 
to Versailles to offer my excuses. The Queen 
was not expecting me and had ordered her coach 
for a drive. The coach was the first thing I 
noticed on entering the courtyard of the palace. 
Nevertheless, I went up to speak to gentlemen of 
the chamber. One of them, M. Campan,i received 
me in a cold, blunt manner, saying in a loud, 
angry voice : " It was yesterday. Madam, that 
Her Majesty expected you, and it is quite certain 
she is going for her drive and quite certain she 
will not give you a sitting." When I replied 
that I merely came to receive Her Majesty's 
orders for another day, he went to the Queen, 
who made me enter her cabinet at once. Her 
Majesty was just finishing her toilet. She held a 
book in her hand while going over a lesson with 
her daughter. My heart beat fast, for I was as 
much afraid as I was wrong. The Queen turned 
towards me and said very sweetly : *' I waited 
for you all the morning yesterday. What hap- 
pened to you ? " — *' Alas ! Madam," I replied, 
" I was so unwell that it was impossible for me to 
obey Your Majesty's orders. I have come to-day 

I This M. Campan was always talking about the Queen. Once, when he 
was dining at my house, my daughter, who was then seven years old, said to 
me very softly : " Mamma, is that gentleman the King ? " 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

in order to receive them, and will go away at 
once." — *' No ! no ! Don't go away ! " replied 
the Queen. *' I will not allow you to make this 
journey for nothing." She dismissed her carriage 
and gave me a sitting. 

I remember that in my anxiety to respond to 
this kindness I took hold of my box of paints 
with such eagerness that it was upset. My brushes 
and pencils were scattered on the floor. I stooped 
to pick them up. *' Leave them, leave them ! " 
said the Queen. " You are too far gone with 
child to stoop." And in spite of all I could say, 
she picked them all up herself. 

When the Court paid its last visit to Fontaine- 
bleau in grand style, as custom demanded, I went 
to enjoy the sight. I saw the Queen in grand 
attire, covered with diamonds. In the brilliant 
sunshine she seemed to me really dazzling. As 
she walked along, her head, uplifted on its beautiful 
Greek neck, made her look so imposing and 
majestic that one was reminded of a goddess in 
the midst of her nymphs. 

At the first sitting Her Majesty gave me on 
her return from that journey, I ventured to mention 
the impression I had received and to tell the 
Queen how much die nobility of her aspect was 
enhanced by the high bearing of her head. She 
replied in a joking manner : " If I were not 
Queen, they would say I looked haughty ; is it 
not so ? " 

The Queen spared no pains to train her children 
in the graceful and pleasant manners which endeared 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

her so much to all who surrounded her. I have 
seen her when making her daughter the Princess, 
then six years old, dine with a little peasant girl 
whom she was taking care of, desire that the latter 
should be served first, saying to her daughter : 
" You must do her the honours." 

The last sitting I had with Her Majesty was at 
the Trianon, where I painted her head for the 
large picture with her children. I remember 
that Baron de Breteuil, then a minister, was 
present and during the entire sitting never stopped 
backbiting all the women of the Court. He 
must have believed me to be either deaf or very 
good-natured, not to fear I might report some of 
his evil remarks to the persons concerned. The 
fact is, it has never occurred to me to repeat a 
single one of them, though I have forgotten none. 

Having painted the head of the Queen, besides 
the separate studies of the first Dauphin, the 
Princess Royal and the Duke of Normandy, I 
immediately set to work on my picture and finished 
it for the Salon of 1788. The sight of the frame 
being carried in alone gave rise to scores of un- 
pleasant remarks. " Voila le deficit," they said, 
besides many other things which were repeated 
to me and forewarned me of the bitterest criticisms. 

At last I sent my picture. I had not the 
courage, however, to go with it in order to know 
its fate at once, so great was my fear of its being 
ill received by the public. My fear, in fact, 
gave me a fever. I locked myself in my room, 
and was there praying to Heaven for the success 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

of my Royal Family, when my brother and a hosti 
of friends came to tell me that I was gaining 
universal approbation. 

After the Salon the King ordered the picture 
to be taken to Versailles, where M. d'Angiviller, 
the then Minister for Arts and director of the 
royal buildings, presented me to His Majesty. 
Louis XVI very kindly talked with me a long 
while and told me that he was very pleased, 
adding, as he looked again at my work : *' I have 
no great knowledge of painting, but you make 
me fond of it." 

My picture was hung in one of the rooms of 
the Palace at Versailles, and the Queen always 
passed it on her way to and from Mass. After 
the death of the Dauphin, at the beginning of 
1789, the sight of it reminded her so vividly of 
her cruel loss that she was unable to cross the 
room without shedding tears. She then told M. 
d'Angiviller to have the picture removed, but 
with her habitual grace she took care to let me 
know at once the reason for its removal. It is 
to the Queen's sensibility that I owe the preser- 
vation of my picture, for the low jades and bandits 
who came a short while after to fetch their 
Majesties, would certainly have lacerated it, as 
they did the Queen's bed, which was cut right 

I never had the pleasure of seeing Marie- 
Antoinette after the last ball at Versailles. This 
ball was given in the Court theatre. The box 
in which I found myself placed was near enough 










»— * 





O ^ 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

to the Queen to allow of my hearing what she 
said. She was very agitated, and invited the 
young gendemen of the Court, such as M. de 
Lameth and others, to dance, all of whom refused, 
so that most of the set-dances could not be arranged. 
The conduct of these gentlemen struck me as 
being most unbecoming. Their refusal somehow 
seemed to me like a sort of revolt, pointing to 
something yet more serious. The Revolution was 
on its way ; it broke out the following year. 

With the exception of the Count d'Artois, I 
painted successively the whole Royal Family, the 
French royal children, the King's brother (later, 
Louis XVIII), his wife, the Countess d'Artois, 
and the Princess Elisabeth. The features of the 
latter were not regular, but her face had the 
kindliest expression, while her great freshness was 
remarkable. Altogether she had the charm of a 
pretty shepherdess. Of course you know, dear 
friend, that the Princess Elisabeth was an angel 
of goodness. How often was I privileged to 
witness her good deeds towards the unfortunate ! 
Her heart sheltered all the virtues. Indulgent, 
modest, sensible and devoted, she showed in the 
Revolution an heroic courage. This gentle Prin- 
cess was seen to walk in front of the cannibals 
who came to murder the Queen, saying : '* They 
will take me for her ! " 

In painting the portrait of the King's brother 
I was able to make the acquaintance of a Prince 
whose fine mind and instruction could be praised 
without flattery. It was impossible not to find 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

pleasure in the conversation of Louis XVIII, who 
discoursed on all subjects with as much good taste 
as knowledge. Sometimes, by way of variety, 
no doubt, he would sing to me during the sittings 
songs which, without being unseemly, were so 
common that I could not understand by what 
channel such silly things arrived at the Court. 
His voice was as false as any on earth. '' How 
do you think I sing, Madame Le Brun ? " 
he said to me one day. — *' Like a Prince, sir," I 

The Marquis de Montesquiou, his equerry, sent 
a very fine carriage with eight horses to take me 
to Versailles and to bring me back with my 
mother, whom I had asked to accompany me. 
All along the way people stood at their windows 
to see me pass. Everybody raised his hat. I 
was amused by the homage paid to the eight 
horses and to the rider who went in front, for 
when I arrived in Paris, I took a cab and no one 
paid any further attention to me. 

The King's brother was then what is called a 
Liberal (in the moderate sense of the word, of 
course). He and his followers formed a party 
at the Court quite distinct from that of the King. 
So I was by no means surprised during the Revo- 
lution to see the Marquis de Montesquiou appointed 
General-in-Chief of the Republican Army of 
Savoy. I had only to recall the strange things 
I heard him say in my presence, not to speak of 
the remarks he so openly indulged in against 
the Queen and all she loved. As for the King's 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

brother himself, the newspapers tell us how he 
went to the National Assembly and declared that 
he did not come to take his seat as a prince^ but 
as a citizen. For all that, I do not believe that 
such a declaration would have been sufficient to 
save his head, and that he did the right thing a 
little later in leaving France. 

About the same time I painted the portrait of 
the Princess de Lamballe. Though not pretty, 
she appeared to be so at a distance. She had 
small features, a dazzling fresh complexion, glorious 
fair hair and plenty of elegance about all her 
person. The dreadful end of that unfortunate 
Princess is well known, as also the devotion to 
which she was sacrificed ; for, being out of all 
peril at Turin in 1793, she returned to France 
as soon as she learnt that the Queen was in danger. 

You see I have gone far beyond the year 1779, 
my dear friend. But I preferred to tell you in a 
single letter of my relations as an artist with all 
these great personages, of whom none survives 
to-day except the Count d'Artois (Charles X) 
and the unfortunate daughter of Marie-Antoinette. 



Journey in Flanders — Brussels — Prince de Ligne — Picture at the 
Town Hall of Amsterdam — My reception at the Royal 
Academy of Painting — My dwelling — My society — My con- 
certs — Garat — Axevedo — Mme Todi — f^iotti — Maestrino — 
Prince Henry of Prussia — Salentin — Hulmandel — Cramer — 
Mme de Montgeroult — My suppers — / act comedy in society 
— Our actors. 

IN 1782 M. LE BRUN took me to Flanders, 
where business called him. The superb col- 
lection of pictures belonging to Prince Charles 
was then being sold, and we went to see the 
exhibition. I found there several ladies of the 
Court, who received me with great kindness, one 
of them being the Duchess d'Aremberg, whom I 
had seen a good deal in Paris. I was most de- 
lighted, however, to meet Prince de Ligne, with 
whom I was as yet unacquainted, and who has 
left a sort of historical reputation for wit and 
affability. He invited us to inspect his gallery, 
where I admired several masterpieces, mostly 
portraits by Van Dyck and heads by Rubens, 
as he owned but few Italian pictures. He desired 
also to receive us at his superb mansion Bel-Oeil. 
I remember he took us up into a belvedere, built 
at the top of a height dominating his lands and 
the surrounding country. The perfect air and 


From a draiving by Cochin. 

To face p. 62 . 

kt ° "cnh&iTii 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

beautiful scene were enchanting ; but nothing 
exceeded the charm of our reception by a host 
whose graceful mind and manners were unmatched. 

The town of Brussels at that time seemed to 
me rich and lively. In high society, for instance, 
pleasure was so rife that several friends of the 
Prince de Ligne would sometimes leave Brussels 
after breakfast, arrive in Paris for the raising of 
the curtain at the show, and return to Brussels 
immediately after, travelling all night. That is 
what one may call being fond of the Opera. 

We left Brussels for Holland. The sight of 
Sardam and Mars ^ gave me much pleasure. 
These two little towns are so clean and well kept 
that one regards the inhabitants with envy. The 
streets are very narrow and bordered with canals. 
Horses take the place of carriages, while little 
boats are used for the transport of goods. The 
houses are very low and have two doors : the 
door of birth and the door of death, through 
which no one passes except in a coffin. The roofs 
of these houses shine like steel, while everything 
is so wonderfully well looked after that I remember 
seeing outside a farrier's shop a sort of lantern 
burnished bright enough for a drawing-room. 

The women of the people in that part of Holland 
seemed to me very beautiful, but so timid that 
the sight of a stranger made them flee. They 
were so in those days, though I suppose that the 
presence of Frenchmen in their country may 
have tamed them. 

I The author probably refers to the Isle of Marken. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

We ended by visiting Amsterdam, where at 
the Town Hall I saw the superb picture of the 
burgomasters by Wanols (Vander Heist). I do 
not think there is any painting more beautiful 
and true ; it is Nature herself. The burgo- 
masters are dressed in black, their 'heads, hands, 
and draperies being of an inimitable beauty. 
Those men are alive : one feels one is with them. 
I am convinced it is the most perfect picture of its 
kind. I could not cease looking at it. The im- 
pression it made upon me keeps it ever before me. 

We returned to Flanders to see the masterpieces 
of Rubens. They were then much better placed 
than later on in the Paris Museum. In the 
Flemish churches they all produced an admirable 
effect. Other masterpieces of this painter adorned 
private galleries. At Antwerp I saw the famous 
Straw Hat painting which was lately sold to an 
Englishman for a large sum. It represents one of 
Rubens' wives. Its chief effect consists in the 
difference of light between simple daylight and 
sunshine, though perhaps one must be a painter in 
order to appreciate Rubens' power of execution. 
I was so delighted with the picture that it inspired 
me to paint my own portrait at Brussels in trying 
to get the same effect. I painted myself wearing 
a straw hat, a feather and a garland of wild flowers, 
and holding my palette in my hand. When the 
portrait was exhibited at the Salon, it added much 
to my reputation, I venture to say. It was 
engraved by the celebrated Mullen You must 
realize, however, that the dark shades of the 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

After my marriage I still lived in the Rue de 
Clery, where M. Le Brun had a large and well- 
urnished apartment, in which he placed his pictures 
3y all the great masters. As for myself, I was 
reduced to occupying a litde ante-chamber and 
bedroom which served me for a salon. It 
was hung with wallpaper similar to the toile de 
"Jouy of my bed-curtains. The furniture was 
very simple, perhaps too simple This fact, how- 
ever, did not prevent M. de Champcenetz (whose 
mother-in-law was jealous of me) from writing 
that *' Mme Le Brun had gilt wainscotings, 

ghted her fire with bank-notes, and burnt nothing 

3ut aloe for wood." But I will delay as much 

as possible, dear friend, to tell you of the hundreds 

of slanders of which I was the victim : we will 

return to that subject later on. The reason for 

these slanders is to be found in the fact of my 

receiving the town and Court every evening in 

the modest apartment I have mentioned. Grand 

adies, grand gentlemen, outstanding men of 

etters and art — everybody came to that room. 

?^eople vied with one another to be invited to 

ny receptions, where the crowd was often so big 

:hat the marshals of France sat on the floor for 

ivant of a seat, and I remember that the Marechal 

ie Noailles, who was very fat and old, was hard 

3ut to it to get up again. I was far from fancying 

to myself that everybody came for my sake. As 

happens in open houses, the ones came to see the 

others, while the greater number came to hear 

the best music in Paris. The famous composers, 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bru 

Gretry, Martini, Sacchini, often carried out part 
of their operas at my house before their firs 
performance. Our usual singers were Garat 
Azevedo, Richer, Mme Todi, my sister-in-law 
who had a very beautiful voice and could accom 
pany at sight, which was very useful to us. Some 
times I sang myself, without method, it is true 
for I never had time to take lessons, but my voici 
was pleasant enough. Gretry said I had silve 
tones. Anyhow, it was useless to make any claim: 
as a singer in the presence of those I have men^ 
tioned. Garat, above all, had the most extra- 
ordinary talent. Not only did no difficulty exis 
for such a flexible throat, but he was also unrivallec 
for expression, while no one, in my opinion, hai 
sung Gluck so well as he. As for Mme Todi 
she possessed a wonderful voice together with al 
the qualities of a great cantatrice, singing serious 
and comic works with the same perfection. 

For instrumental music I had Viotti the violinistj 
whose ravishing play was so full of grace, force- 
fulness and expression. Further, Jarnovick, Maes- 
trino. Prince Henry of Prussia, an excellent 
amateur, who also brought me his first violin. 
Salentin played the hautbois, Hulmandel and 
Cramer the piano. Mme de Montgeroult alsc 
came once, a short while after her marriage. 
Although she was then very young, she astonishec 
all my very critical company with her admirable 
execution and expression. She made the keys 
speak. Having risen to the foremost rank as i 
pianist, Mme de Montgeroult gained distinction 

t'" .aiilk^iMit.; 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

also as a composer. In the days when I gave 
my concerts, one had both taste and leisure for 
amusement. Even several years before, the love 
of music was so general that it gave rise to serious 
quarrels between the Gluckists and Piccinists. 

All music-lovers were divided into two opposing 
factions. The usual battle-field was the garden 
of the Palais Royal. There the partisans of 
Gluck and those of Piccini quarrelled so violently 
that many a duel was the result. Quarrels also 
took place in several salons on account of these 
great masters. Marmontel and the Abbe Arnault 
were opposed to each other, Marmontel being a 
Piccinist and the Abbe an ardent Gluckist. Each 
hurled epigrams and couplets against the other. 
The Abbe Arnault, for instance, composed the 
following verses : 

Ce Marmontel, si lent, si lourd. 
Qui ne parle pas, mais qui beugle, 
Juge la painture en aveugle, 
Et la musique comme un sourd.^ 

Marmontel replied with this couplet : 

L'Abbe Fatras, 

De Carpentras, 
Demande un benefice. 

II I'obtiendra 

Car r Opera 
Lui tient lieu d'office.' 

* " This slow, heavy Marmontel, who does not speak, but bellows, judges 
painting like a blind man, and music like a deaf man." 

> " The Abb6 Fatras of Carpentras asks for a living. He'll get it, for 
the Op^ra serves him instead of the divine office." 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

You will agree, my dear, that the times must 
have been very happy when people's quarrels 
were about no graver subjects than those, which 
could only occur among enlightened folk. But I 
return to the subject of my concerts. 

The women who usually attended them were 
the Marquise de Groslier, Mme de Verdun, the 
Marquise de Sabran, who later married the 
Chevalier de Boufflers, Mme Le Couteulx du 
Molay, all four my best friends, the Countess 
de Segur, the Marquise de Rouge, Mme de Peze, 
her friend, whom I painted in the same picture 
with her, a host of other French ladies whom I 
could only receive occasionally owing to the 
smallness of the premises, and the most dis- 
tinguished foreign ladies. As for the men, the 
number would be too long to relate in detail, 
since I believe I received all that Paris could offer 
in the way of people of talent and wit. 

From among this crowd I chose the most 
agreeable for my invitations to supper, which 
the Abbe Delille, Lebrun the poet, the Chevalier 
de Boufflers, the Vicomte de Segur, and others, 
made the most amusing in Paris. 

It is impossible to realize what French society 
was like, unless one knows the time when, having 
finished the business of the day, twelve or fifteen 
pleasant people would come together at the house 
of a hostess in order to end their evening. The 
ease and gentle mirth which prevailed at those light; 
evening meals lent them a charm which dinners 
will never have. A sort of mutual confidence 


From the painting by Duplessis, 

To face p. 71. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

and intimacy prevailed among the guests ; and 
since well-bred people are never troubled v^ith 
shyness, it was at these suppers that the high 
society of Paris showed itself superior to the rest 
of Europe. 

At my house, for instance, people came together 
about nine o'clock. No one ever spoke of politics ; 
the conversation turned on literature and one 
told the anecdote of the day. Sometimes we 
played charades, while at others the Abbe Delille 
or Lebrun (Pindare) would read his verses to 
us. At ten o'clock one sat down at table. My 
supper was of the simplest kind. It consisted of 
a fowl, a fish, a plate of vegetables and a salad, 
so that if I ventured to make some visitors stay 
on for supper, there was really not enough to eat 
for everybody. That, however, mattered little : 
everyone was merry and pleasant : hours went 
by like minutes, till about midnight everyone 

Apart from the suppers at my house, I often 
went out to supper, for I was not at leisure till 
the evening. It was then very pleasant for me 
to find rest from my work in some pleasant dis- 
traction. Sometimes it took the shape of a ball, 
where one was not suffocated as nowadays. Eight 
persons only formed the set-dance, while the 
women who did not dance could at least watch 
the others do so, for the men stood up behind 
them. Never having any fondness for dancing, 
I much preferred houses where music was offered. 
I often spent the evening at the house of M. de 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Riviere, where we acted comedy and comic opera. 
His daughter, my sister-in-law, sang marvellously, 
and was an excellent actress. M. de Riviere's 
eldest son was charming in comic parts, while I 
was given the role of lady's maid in opera and 
comedy. Mme de la Ruette, who had retired 
from the stage some years previously, did not 
despise our troupe. She acted with us in several 
operas, her voice being still very fresh and 
beautiful. My brother Vigee took the leading 
parts with great success. Indeed, all our actors 
were excellent except Talma. Does that make 
you laugh ? The fact is that Talma, who played 
the lover in our pieces, was awkward and ill at 
ease, while nobody at the time could have foreseen 
that he would become an inimitable actor. I 
admit my surprise was very great when I saw our 
young actor surpass Larive and replace Lekain. 
But the time it took to effect this change, as all 
others of the kind, proves that the dramatic talent 
is of all talents that which takes the longest to 
be acquired. Observe that there is not a single 
great actor known, who was such in his youth. 

This letter is enormous. I have no space left 
to tell you of a certain Grecian supper, which, 
owing to stupid gossip, was bruited abroad even 
as far as St. Petersburg. I end with my love to 



My Grecian supper — Gossip it occasioned — What it cost me — 
Menageot — M. de Calonne — Mile Arnoulfs remark — Mme 
de S V slanders — Her perfidy. 

I WILL NOW GIVE YOU, my dear friend, 
the exact account of the most brilliant supper 
I ever gave in the days when people were 
always talking about my luxurious and magnificent 
mode of life. 

One afternoon, while taking my rest before 
receiving a dozen or so persons I had invited, 
I got my brother to read aloud to me several 
pages of the Travels of Anarcharsis, When he 
came to the passage describing the way to make 
several Grecian sauces, he suggested that I should 
have them prepared for table that evening. I 
sent immediately for my cook and gave her the 
[lecessary instructions for the preparation of a 
pertain sauce for the fowl and of another for the 
pel. As I was expecting some very beautiful 
k^omen, I thought it a good idea to dress every- 
body in Grecian costumes, in order to have a 
urprise ready for M. de Vaudreuil and M. Boutin, 
vho were not expected till ten o'clock. 

My atelier was full of draperies used for my 
nodels, so I hoped to get dresses enough from 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

that source, while Count de Paroy, who occupied 
my house in the Rue de Clery, had a fine collection 
of Etruscan vases. Luckily, he came to see me 
that very day about four o'clock. I told him 
about my plan, and he brought me a lot of cups 
and vases, from which I made a choice. I cleaned 
them all myself and put them on a bare mahogany 
table. After that I placed behind the chairs an 
immense screen, which I took care to hide beneath 
some drapery, hung from point to point as one 
sees in Poussin's pictures. A hanging lamp shed 
a strong light on to the table. Everything, even 
the costumes, having been got ready, Mme Chal- 
grin, the charming daughter of Joseph Vernet 
was the first to arrive. I did her hair and dressec 
her at once. The next arrival was the beautifu 
Mme de Bonneuil. Then came Mme Vigee, m) 
sister-in-law, who was not so pretty but had th( 
most lovely eyes in the world. In a trice al 
three were transformed into perfect Atheniansj 
Lebrun-Pindare arrived. His powdered wig wai 
taken from him and his tresses were undone a 
the side, after which I fixed on his head the sam( 
crown of laurels which I had just used in painting 
Prince Henry Lubomirski in Love of Glory 
Count de Paroy had a big clean mantle, wit 
which I immediately transformed Pindare int 
Anacreon. Then came the Marquis de Cubierej 
While a guitar shaped like a gilt lyre was bein 
fetched from his house, I dressed up my sister-in 
law's brother M. de Riviere, Ginguene, an 
Chaudet, the famous sculptor. 


From the palming by Madame he Brun {Musee de Versailles). 

To face p. 74. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

The hour was getting late and I had had little 

time to think about myself ; but as I always 

wore a white dress like a tunic (what is called a 

blouse nowadays) I needed only to put a veil 

and a chaplet of flowers on my head. I took 

articular care with my daughter and Mme de 

onneuil, who was as beautiful as an angel. Both 

ere ravishing to the sight, carrying a very light 

fincient vase and getting ready to serve us with 

Brink. At half-past nine the preparations were 

completed. When we were all in our places, the 

effect of the table was so novel and picturesque 

that we took turns in getting up and going to 

ook at those who remained seated. At ten o'clock 

we heard the carriage of Count de Vaudreuil 

and Boutin enter the courtyard, and when these 

two gentlemen arrived at the dining-room door, 

they discovered us singing Gluck's chorus, *' Le 

Dieu de Paphos et de Cnide," which M. de 

[^ubieres accompanied on his lyre. In all my 

ife I have never seen two faces so much 

istonished and dumbfounded as those of M. de 

Vaudreuil and his companion. They were so 

jurprised and charmed that they remained stand- 

ng a very long time before making up their 

ninds to occupy the places we had reserved for 


Besides the two dishes I have already told you 
)f, we had a cake made of honey and currants, 
ind two dishes of vegetables. It is true that we 
irank a bottle of old Cyprus wine which had 
Deen given me for a present. That was all the 


Memoirs oj Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brm 

excess. Nevertheless, we remained at table ; 
very long while. Lebrun recited several ode 
of Anacreon which he had translated. I dc 
not believe I have ever spent a more amusing 

M. Boutin and M. de Vaudreuil were so de 
lighted with the evening that they talked abou 
it to all their acquaintances next day. Som 
ladies of the Court begged me to repeat the fun 
I refused for various reasons, whereat several o 
the ladies took offence. The report soon go 
abroad that I had spent twenty thousand franc 
on the entertainment. The King mentioned i 
jokingly to the Marquis de Cubieres, who luckil; 
happened to have been one of the company, an( 
convinced His Majesty of the nonsense of such ; 

Nevertheless, the cost, which was kept as modes 
as twenty thousand at Versailles, rose to fort] 
thousand at Rome. At Vienna, Baroness Stro 
gonofF told me that I had spent sixty thousan< 
on my Grecian supper. At Petersburg it w^ 
settled at last at eighty thousand. And the trutl 
is, it cost me fifteen francs. 

The sad part of all this was that these bas 
falsehoods were spread all over Europe by m 
own countrymen. The ridiculous slander of whic 
I have told you was not the only one with whic 
people tried to torment my life, as may be see 
from the following verses addressed to me b' 
Lebrun-Pindare in 1789 and which perhaps yoi 
do not know : 



To face p. 76, 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

A Madame Le Brun. 

Chere Le Brun, la gloire a ses orages j 

L'Envie est la qui guette le talent ; 

Tout ce qui plait, tout merite excellent 

Doit de ce monstre essuyer les outrages. 

Qui mieux que toi les merita jamais ? 

Un pinceau male anime tes portraits. 

Non, tu n'est plus femme que Ton renomme : 

L'Envie est juste et ses cris obstines 

Et ses serpents contre toi dechaines 

Mieux que nos voix te declarent grand homme.^ 

Leaving aside the poet's exaggeration regarding 
ny talent, it is unfortunately true, however, that 
Ver since my first appearance in society I have 
►een made the butt of stupidity and malice. At 
:rst it was said my works were not my own : 
A. Menageot painted my pictures, even my 
ortraits. Though so many people who sat for 
le could naturally bear witness to the contrary, 
lis absurd report was spread abroad even till the 
me of my reception into the Royal Academy of 
ainting. As I was then exhibiting at the Salon 
: the same time as the author of Meleagre, the 
uth had to be admitted ; for Menageot, whose 
llent and advice I greatly appreciated, had a 
ay of painting entirely opposed to my own.^ 

» " Dear Le Brun, glory has its storms. Envy lies in wait for talent, 
krything pleasant, all excellent merit, has to undergo the outrages of this 
bnster. Who ever merited them more than thou ? A manly brush gives 
b to thy portraits. No, thou art not praised because thou art a woman. 
ivy is just, and its repeated cries and serpents let loose against thee, proclaim 
ce better than our voices a great man." 

* Menageot's pictures are thoroughly well composed and of good historical 
fit. He excelled in draping his figures. His Leonard de Find mourant 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bru) 

Though I believe I was the most harmlesi 
creature in existence, I was not without enemies 
Not only did some women dislike me for no 
being so ugly as themselves, but several painter 
could not forgive me for being the fashion anc 
getting a higher price for my pictures than the] 
got for theirs. This led to all sorts of thing 
being said against me, one of which caused mi 
great distress. Just before the Revolution, 
painted the portrait of M. de Calonne and exhibited 
it at the Salon of 1785. I had painted ths 
Minister, seated, to half-way down the legs. Thi 
caused Mile Arnoult to remark : " Mme Le Bru 
has cut off his legs, so that he may not run away. 
Unfortunately, that witty remark was not th 
only one occasioned by my picture, and I foun 
myself subjected to slanders of the most odioi 
nature. First of all, absurd stories were tol 
regarding the fee for the portrait. Some assertei 
that the Minister of Finance had given me a gref 
number of bonbons called papillotes wrapped i 
bank-notes. Others made out that I had receive 
a pie containing a sum big enough to ruin th 
Treasury. There were, in fact, hundreds of vei 
sions, the one more ridiculous than the othe 
The truth is M. de Calonne sent me four thousan 
francs in a box valued at twenty louis. Sever; 
of the persons who were present when I receive 

dans les bras de Francois I is very remarkable, though not up to the quali 
of Mel^agre, which has been kept at the Gobelins to be worked in tapesti 
M. Menageot was a very handsome man, thoroughly pleasant, keen-witt 
and gay. He was therefore much sought after in the best society. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

the box are still alive and can testify to the truth 
of this. Some were even surprised at the meagre- 
ness of the sum ; for a short time previously, 
M. de Beaujon, whom I had painted the same 
size, had sent me eight thousand francs, which 
lo one took to be an exorbitant price. Never- 
theless, the evil-minded set to work to embroider 
:he fact. I was pestered with libels accusing me of 
iving in intimate relationship with M. de Calonne. 
\ certain Gorsas, whom I have never seen or known 
md who was reported to me as a violent Jacobin, 
/■omited these horrid things against me. 

The fact of M. Le Brun having a house built in 
lie Rue du Gros Chenet, though against my desire, 
erved, unfortunately, as a pretext for the calumny. 
kVe had, indeed, earned money enough to warrant 
luch an expense. Nevertheless, certain people 
isserted that M. de Calonne paid for the house. 

" See what infamous things are being said," I 

;onstantly pointed out to M. Le Brun. — " Let 

hem talk," he replied in gende anger. *' When 

^ou are dead, I will raise a pyramid sky-high in 

my garden and I will have the list of your portraits 

pngraved on it. Then they will know what to 

hink about your fortune." But I confess that 

he hope of such an honour gave me small con- 

iolation for my actual sorrow, which was all the 

more heartfelt because nobody had feared less 

than I the possibility of becoming the victim of 

vil-thinking. I was so careless of money that 

[ was almost unaware of its value. Countess de 

a Guiche, who is still alive, can relate how she 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

came to ask me to paint her portrait, saying that 
she could not offer more than a thousand ecus ; 
to which I replied that M, Le Brun did not wish 
me to paint for less than a hundred louis. This 
inability to calculate was very unprofitable to me 
during my last visit to London. I was constantly 
forgetting that a guinea was worth more than a 
louis, and in settling the price of my portraits, 
especially that of Mrs. Canning (in 1803), I 
reckoned as though I was in Paris. 

Moreover, all those who were around me know 
that M. Le Brun took charge of all my earnings, 
telling me that he would use them to advantage 
in his business. Often I kept no more than si: 
francs in my pocket. When I painted the portrai 
of the handsome Prince Lubomirski in 1788 
Princess Lubomirska, his aunt, sent me twelv( 
thousand francs, of which sum I begged M. Lj 
Brun to leave me two louis. He refused, saving 
that he needed the whole sum in order to settle 
an account It was more usual, in fact, for M. 
Le Brun himself to receive the money, and very 
often he failed to tell I had been paid. Once 
only in my life, in September 1789, did I receive 
the fee for a portrait ; that was when the Bailiff 
of Crussol sent me one hundred lois. Happily, 
my husband was away, so that I was able to keep 
the money, which paid for my journey to Rome 
a few days later (September 5th). 

My indifference to money was no doubt at 
that time due to the little need I had to be rich. 
My house required no luxury to make it pleasant. 

lemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

nd I have always lived very modesdy. I spent 
pry litde on clodies. In this respect I was even 
ccused of being too careless, for I always wore 
^hite dresses of muslin or linen, and never had 
ny ornamental dresses made except for my sittings 
t Versailles. My head-gear never cost me any- 
ling. I did my own hair-dressing and generally 
visted a muslin fichu about my head, as may be 
len in my portraits in Florence, St. Petersburg, 
id at M. de Laborde's house in Paris. I painted 
lyself in this manner in all my portraits except 
le one at the Home Office, where I am in a 
reek costume. 

Certainly, a woman of that sort was not likely 
> be seduced by the title of Finance Minister, 
hile, in every other respect, M. de Calonne 
^ays seemed to me unattractive, for he wore a 
ical wig. A wig ! Just imagine me, with my 
ndness for the picturesque, being able to put up 
,th a wig ! I have always detested them, so 
bch so that I once refused a rich suitor because 
wore a wig. I never painted bewigged men 
kept with regret. 

The surprising part of this affair is that there 
IS nothing to offer even the shadow of likelihood 
slander. I scarcely knew M. de Calonne. 
nee only in my life had I been to his abode at 
e Ministry of Finance. He was giving a grand 
rty for Prince Henry of Prussia, and as the latter 
iially visited my house, he had thought it proper 
invite me. Moreover, I remember hurrying 
portrait to the extent of painting the hands 

F 8i 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brut 

without his sitting for them, though it was m] 
custom always to paint them from life. 

I should never have guessed the source of the& 
distressing reports, had I not discovered later oi 
a truly hellish perfidy. 

M. de Calonne used often to go to the Rui 
du Gros Chenet (I was not living there at th 

time) to the house of Mme de S , wife of D 

nicknamed "The Rake." ^ Mme de S hai 

a sweet and charming face, although one couL 
notice something false in her look. M. de Calonn 
was very much in love with her. At the time 
am speaking of, she had asked me to paint he 
portrait. One day, while sitting for me, sh 
asked me with her usual sweetness if I woul 
lend her my carriage in order to go to the pla 
that evening. I consented, and my coachma 
went to her house to get her. Next morning 
I ordered my carriage for eleven o'clock. Pi, 
eleven o'clock, however, neither coachman nd 
carriage had returned. I immediately sent a me 

senger to Mme de S 's house. Mme de S — ^ 

had not returned at all. She had spent the nigl 
at the palace of the Minister of Finance ! Jud^ 
of my anger when I heard the news a few da; 
later through my coachman, whom a large bril 
had failed to keep silent and who had related tl 
matter to several people in the house. Thinkir 

» These are the only names dissimulated by Mme Vigee-Le Brun in 1 
Memoirs. They refer to Countess de Serre, wife of Jean Du Barry, the fame 
" Rake," who called himself Count de Serre at Toulouse. The family li\ 
in Paris in 1785. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

that if the people at the Finance palace or others 
had asked the coachman the name of his employers 
he would naturally have answered that it belonged 
to Mme Le Brun, I was quite beyond myself. 
It is useless to add that I have never seen Mme 
de S again. I am told she is living at Tou- 
louse, practising the most austere life of religious 
devotion. May God grant her pardon ! Did she 
try to save her reputation at the cost of mine ? 
Did she hate me ? I do not know. But she did 
me great harm, for the long details I have set 
out, dear friend, prove how much I have suffered 
from a slander which was so little in keeping with 
my character and the conduct of a whole lifetime, 
which I venture to say has been one of honour. 

This is truly a sad letter, fit to turn one with 
disgust from celebrity, especially if one has the 
misfortune to be a woman. Somebody said to 
me one day : " When I look at you and think 
Df your fame, I seem to see rays about your head." 
— " Ah ! " I replied with a sigh. " There may 
A^ell be a few little serpents among them." And 
really, has one ever known a great reputation, 
n whatever matter, that failed to arouse envy ? 
[t is true that it also attracts towards you your 
iiost distinguished contemporaries ; and that 
issociation makes up for many things. When I 
hink of the great number of pleasant and good 
)eople, whose friendship I owe to my talent, I 
)ride myself with having made my name known ; 
vhile to put everything in a nutshell, dear friend, 
vhen I think of you, I forget the wicked. 



Lekain — Brizard — Mile Dumesnil — Monvel — Mile Raucourt — 
Mile Sainval — Mme Festris — Larive — Mile Clairon — 
Talma — Preville — Duga%on — Mile Doligny — Mile Contat — 
Mole — Fleury — Mile Mars — Mile Arnault — Mme Saint- 
Huberti — The two Festris — Mile Pelin — Mile Allard— 
Mile Guimard — Carlin — Caillot — Laruette — Mme Duga-zon 

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE relaxations wai 
to go to the playhouse. I can tell yoi 
that the actors were so brilliant that man] 
of them have never been equalled. I remembe 
the celebrated actor Lekain. Though I was thei 
too young to appreciate his great talent, th 
applause and enthusiasm he aroused told me hov 
brilliant a tragedian he was. The amazing uglines 
of Lekain vanished when he played certain charac 
ters. The costume of knight, for instance, softenei 
so much the stern and repellent expression 
his face, the features of which were irregulai 
that it was possible to look at it when he playei 
Tancrede. I once saw him in the role of Orosman 
at very close quarters, and the turban made hir 
look so hideous that I was filled with dreac 
although I admired his fine and noble manner. 

At the time when Lekain was playing th 
principal parts, as well as some time after, I sa^ 
Brizard and Mile Dumesnil. Brizard acted th 


To face p. 85. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

part of father, nature seeming to have created 
him for that office. His white hair, imposing 
figure and superb voice gave him the noblest and 
most respectable character imaginable. He ex- 
celled above all in King Lear and in Ducis' Oedipe. 
So grand was the aspect of the man who acted 
the parts of these two old unfortunate princes 
that you would have believed you really saw them. 

Mile Dumesnil, though small and very ugly, 
aroused enthusiasm in the great tragic roles. Her 
talent was very unbalanced. She sometimes bor- 
dered on triviality, though she had her sublime 
moments. In general, she was better at expressing 
fury than affection, unless it was maternal affection, 
one of her finest parts being that of Merope. 
She sometimes played part of a play without 
making any effect. Then of a sudden she would 
brighten up, her gestures, voice and looks be- 
coming so wonderfully tragic that she won the 
applause of the entire theatre. I was told that 
she always drank a botde of wine before going 
on to the stage, and that she always had another 
kept ready in the side-scenes. 

One of the most remarkable actors of the 
Theatre Frangais, in tragedy and comedy, was 
Monvel. He was prevented from attaining front 
rank by a few physical defects and the weakness 
of his voice, but his soul, ardour and perfect 
delivery were excellent. When I returned to 
France he had given up playing young leading 
parts and was acting the part of a noble father. 
I saw him act Auguste in Cinna and the Abbe 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

de I'Epee most admirably. In the latter role he 
was so real that one day when he greeted the 
personages of the piece just before leaving the 
stage, I rose and returned his greeting, which 
amused very much the people who were with me 
in the box. 

The most brilliant debut I ever saw was that, 
of Mile Raucourt in the role of Didon. She 
could not have been more than eighteen or twenty 
years old. The beauty of her features, her figure, 
voice, delivery, all bespoke a perfect actress. To 
so many advantages she united a most remarkable 
stateliness and the reputation of an austere staid- 
ness that caused her to be much courted by our 
greatest ladies. She was given jewels, her theatre 
costumes, as well as money for herself and her 
father, who was always at her side. Later on 
she must have changed her mode of life. It is 
said that the first happy mortal to triumph over 
so much virtue was the Marquis de Bievres, and 
that when she forsook him for another lover he 
exclaimed : " Ah ! the ungrateful woman has 
my income ! " Though Mile Raucourt may not 
have remained virtuous, she certainly remained a 
great tragedian. But her voice became so harsh 
and hard that, listening to her with one's eyes 
shut, one thought it was a man speaking. Not 
till her death did she leave the stage, where she 
ended up by playing the parts of mothers and 
queens with tremendous success. 

Other actresses I saw were the Miles Sainval 
and Mme Vestris, the sister of Dugazon. The 

From a painting by Madame Le Brun [Musee de Versailles), 

To fac p. 87. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

two former were given a little too much to weeping, 
but both, especially the younger, seemed to me 
to be greater tragediennes than Mme Vestris, 
who, in spite of her beauty, never gained any 
great success, except in the role of Gabrielle de 
Vergy, when, in the last act, she created a heart- 
rending effect. It must, however, be said that 
the scene is horrible. 

Larive, who had the ill-luck to succeed Lekain, 

still fresh in people's memories, had more talent 

than old theatre-goers were willing to grant. It 

was the comparison alone that did him injustice, 

or he lacked neither nobility nor energy. His 

"ace was handsome. He was big and well made, 

but never upright on his legs, which led to its 

Deing said that he walked beside himself. 

Larive had a very good manner and conversed 
wittily, even on matters unconnected with his 
art, so that he was always in good company. My 
Drother introduced him to me. Knowing that 
he was intimately associated with Mile Clairon, 
I once remarked to him that I would like to meet 
that great tragedienne, whom I had never seen 
on the stage. He immediately begged me to 
dine at his house in order to bring us together. 

accepted the invitation. Two days later I 
^ent to the house he had had built for himself 
in the Gros-Caillou. It was a charming house, 
ippointed in perfect taste, besides having a 
beautiful garden which offered one the delights 
)f the country in Paris. Larive took me round 
lis arches under climbing vines in the style of 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brm 

the ancients, such as one sees in the neighbourhood 
of Naples. Just as we returned to the salon foi 
dinner. Mile Clairon was announced. I had 
imagined her to be very big. She was, however, 
very small and thin. She carried her head very 
high, which made her look very dignified. On 
the other hand, I have never heard anyone speak 
with so much bombast, for she always kept the 
tragic tone and the airs of a princess. But she 
seemed to me well-informed and fine-witted. I 
sat next to her at table and much enjoyed hei 
conversation. Larive showed a great respect foi 
her, revealing both admiration and gratitude, with 
which he never ceased talking of her. 

On my return to France, I was delighted tc 
see Larive again, meeting him frequently at th( 
house of the Marquise de Grollier at Epinay 
Having left the stage, he was then living at j 
charming country house near by. Mme de Grolliei 
was delighted to have him for a neighbour. H< 
treated us to wonderful readings ; his way ol 
reciting verses was much enhanced by the beaut) 
of his voice. 

Talma, our last great tragedian, surpassed al 
others, in my opinion. His acting was genial 
Moreover, he may be said to have revolutionizec 
the art, first of all, by doing away with the bom 
bastic, afiFected manner of reciting, and by hi 
natural and true delivery ; secondly, by changin 
the style of the costumes, for he dressed as a Gree 
and Roman when acting the parts of Achille 
and Brutus. Talma had a very fine head ani 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

one of the most flexible faces ever seen. How- 
ever fiery his acting became, he always remained 
noble, which is, I think, the first quality in a 
tragedian. His voice was at times rather damped. 
It was more suited to furious or deep parts rather 
than brilliant ones. For this reason he was 
especially admirable in the roles of Areste and 
Manlius, but he had several sublime moments in 
all. The last role he thought out has never since 
been played. I do not believe anyone would 
dare, for Talma showed himself therein superior 
to himself. It was no longer an actor ; it was 
Charles VI himself, an unhappy king, an unhappy 
fool in all his frightful truth. Alas ! death fol- 
lowed so closely on his triumph. What Paris 
had applauded so enthusiastically was the death- 
song of the swan. 

Talma was an excellent man, the easiest of all 
to get along with. He was generally very litde 
trouble in society, an interesting word in the 
conversation being all that was necessary to animate 
im. He would then become very interesting to 
listen to, especially when he talked of his art. 

Comedy was perhaps richer in talents than 
tragedy. I often had the pleasure of seeing Pre- 
ville act. What a perfect, inimitable actor ! His 
acting was full of wit, good-nature and gaiety, 
besides being most varied. If he played Crispin, 
Sosie, Figaro, one after the other, you would 
not recognize the same man, so inexhaustible 
were the shades in his interpretation of the comical. 
For this reason he has never been replaced. He 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

was so naturally genuine that all his imitators 
had only succeeded in showing his superiority. 
I make no exception of Dugazon, who certainly 
had great talent, but as Figaro in the Barber of 
Seville, for instance, he never came up to his model, 

I dined with Preville several times. It was a 
rare thing to meet so pleasant a companion at 
table. His witty merriment charmed every one 
of us. He was very clever at telling anecdotes 
of an extremely piquant nature. People sought 
eagerly for the chance of being together with him, 

Dugazon, his successor in comic rules, woulc 
have made an excellent comedian if the desire tc 
make the public laugh had not led him pretty 
often into farce. He was very good in certain 
parts as valet. He had a biting manner, a perfeci 
expression, and might have equalled Preville if he 
had avoided exaggeration. One is induced tc 
believe that his nature led him to choose thai 
wretched style by the fact that the shade or 
difference on the stage between him and his pre- 
decessor was evident in the salons as well. In 
the latter, Preville was always a pleasant man, 
while Dugazon was a very witty buffoon. He 
was therefore only received occasionally in order 
to amuse the guests. He was, indeed, very enter- 
taining, especially after dinner. His conduct ir^ 
the Revolution was atrocious. He was one of 
those who went to fetch the King at Varennes. 
while an eye-witness related to me how he had 
seen him at the door of the carriage with a gun 
on his shoulder. All this in spite of the fact of 

After Moreau, junior. 

To face p. 90 ■ 

Memoirs of Madame Elisaheth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

lis having been overwhelmed with favours by 
he Court, especially by the Count d'Artois. 

I remember seeing Mile Doligny in young 
wading parts, which she acted to perfection. She 
/as so natural, witty and good that her great 
alent made one forget her ugliness. I also saw 
he debut of Mile Contat. She was extremely 
retty and well made, but acted so badly at first 
lat nobody expected she would become so 
xcellent an actress. Her charming face was not 
Iways sufficient to keep her from being hissed, 
^hen Beaumarchais gave her the part of Suzanne 
1 the Marriage of Figaro. From that time on- 
ards she had one success after another, in the 
51e of grande coquette at first, then in parts more 
iiitable to her age and particularly her figure, 
fcich, unfortunately, had grown too plump. Mile 
bntat married M. de Parny, a nephew of the 
bet of that name, but the marriage was not 
finounced until after she had left the theatre, 
fer face remained attractive until her death. I 
ive never seen a more bewitching smile. Her 
*eat wit rendered her conversation very spicy, 
hile she seemed to me so pleasant that I often 
vited her to my house. 

Mile Contat was admirably seconded in all her 
»les by Mole, who almost always acted with 
^r. Though never the equal of Preville, Mole 
ias a great actor. He had both grace and dignity 
id filled the stage, so to speak. Moreover, I 
ive seldom seen so varied and brilliant a talent 

his. I received him at my house several times. 



Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brl 

Though his acting was very fine, Mol^ had e 
outstanding social gifts excepting a very goo 

Fleury, who succeeded him in the foremc 
roles, was the last to maintain the tradition 
high comedy. He had less lyricism and sublimi 
of style than Mole, but he surpassed all othe 
in portraying young grand gendemen. As 1 
was very witty and well-mannered, he mix< 
with high society and assimilated so well i 
customs, charms and whims that a few years a^ 
he still offered us a perfect copy of models th 
have died out. 

When all the great actors I have mention< 
began to grow old, there arose a young tale 
who is the ornament of the French stage to-da 
Mile Mars was inimitable in playing the part 
the Ingenue. She excelled in that of Victorii 
in Philosophe sans le Savoir^ and in a score 
others in which no one else has been able to tal 
her place, for it is impossible to be so lifelil 
and moving. She was indeed nature itself wi 
all its charm. When you saw Mile Mars, n 
dear friend, she had already taken the place 
Mile Con tat, whom she alone was able to eclips 
No doubt you remember her pretty face, fi] 
figure and angelic voice. Fortunately they ha 
all been so well preserved that Mile Mars has i 
age at all, and never will have, I believe. Tl 
enthusiasm of the public every evening prov 
that it shares my opinion. I remember twi 
seeing Mile Arnoult act in Castor et Pollux 


tmoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

le Grand Opera. I was then hardly able to 

idge of her talent as an actress. I remember, 

bwever, that she seemed to me to have both 

tace and the power of expression. As for her 

lent as a singer, I was so horribly bored by the 

usic of those days that I listened too badly to 

; able to speak about it. Mile Arnoult was 

)t at all pretty ; her mouth was out of keeping 

Lth her face, her eyes alone imparting an expres- 

)n in which resided the remarkable spirit that 

is made her famous. Many anecdotes about 

br have been told and printed. Here is one 

lich I do not think is known and which I find 
ery comical : She was attending the marriage 
her daughter together with the bridegroom's 
lother, aunt, and several female relations. During 
le wedding rite, Mile Arnoult turned round 
nd said to them : " How nice ! I am the only 
irl here ! " 

Mile Arnoult was succeeded by a woman whose 
utstanding talent delighted us a long while. 
he was Mme Saint-Hubert, who had to be 
card in order to realize what heights lyrical 
•agedy can reach. Not only did she possess a 
lorious voice, but she was also a great actress, 
t was her good fortune to have to sing to the 
peras of Piccini, Sacchini, and Gluck, whose 
eautiful and expressive music thoroughly suited 
er talent, which was full of expression, faithfulness 
) life and nobility. It is impossible to be more 
ffecting than she was in the roles of Alceste, 
)idon, etc. She was^always so genuine and 

^ 93 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brm 

noble, that her song drew tears from the whok 
theatre. I still remember certain words and notes 
which it was impossible to resist. 

Mme Saint-Hubert was not pretty, but she 
had a charming expression. Count d'Entraigues, 
a very handsome man, much distinguished foi 
his wit, fell so much in love with her that he 
married her. When the Revolution broke out 
he took refuge with her in London. It was 
there that they were both assassinated one evening 
as they were getting into a carriage. Neithei 
the assassins nor the motives for such a wicked 
crime were ever discovered. 

As far as singing was concerned, the entire 
Opera held nobody but Mme Saint-Hubert foi 
me, so I will not talk of those who sang with her, 
I could hardly listen to them. I preferred tc 
keep part of my attention for the ballets, in which 
several remarkable talents were appearing. Garde^ 
and Vestris pere held the front rank. I oftcr 
saw them dancing together, especially in a Spanish 
dance in one of Gretry's operas, which attracted 
all Paris. It was a pas de deux in which the twc 
dancers pursued Mile Guimard, who was verj 
small and thin. On this account they wer( 
likened to two big dogs quarrelling over a bone 
Gardel always seemed to me to be much inferio 
to Vestris pere^ who was a big, handsome man 
dancing solemn, stately dances to perfection. I 
am at a loss to describe the consummate grac< 
with which he doffed and replaced his hat wher 
performing the greeting that preceded the minuet. 


demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

n fact, all the young debutantes at the Court 
ook him as a model in learning how to make 
heir three curtseys. 

Vestris pere was succeeded by his son, the most 
urprising dancer ever seen, so great were his 
jrace and lightness. Although our modern dancers 
o not stint the number of their pirouettes, none 
f them will ever make as many as he did. He 
/ould suddenly spring into the air in so amazing 

manner that you thought he had wings. This 
ed Vestris pere to say : *' If my son touches the 
[round, he does so by way of procedure for the 
ake of his colleagues." 

Mile Pelin and Mile Allard were two dancers 
n what is called the grotesque style in Italy. 

fhey did stunts, endless pirouettes without any 
larm. Both of them, however, though very 
fout, possessed an astonishing agility, especially 
AWq Allard. 

Mile Guimard's talent was altogether different. 
p^er dance was a mere sketch. She danced 
othing but small steps, though with such graceful 
lovements that the public preferred her to all 
ther dancers. She was small, slim and shapely, 
nd although ugly, had such fine features that 
ven at the age of forty-five she seemed on the 

age to be no more than fifteen. 

A happy rival to the Grand Op^ra was the 
jpera Comique, which I saw constructed. It 
Dok the place of what was called the Italian 
xomedy. It would be hard for me to tell you 
nything about the latter, if I did not remember 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brur 

having been there to see Carlin. Though ver) 
young at the time, I still retain a memory o] 
him. Carlin acted Harlequin in sketches, a sor- 
of proverbs, which required witty actors. Hii 
flashes of wit were inexhaustible, the spontaneit) 
and brightness of his acting making him ar 
exceptional actor. Though very stout, he wai 
very nimble in his movements. I was told tha: 
he studied his graceful gestures by watching 
kittens at play. He certainly had their suppleness 
His appearance alone was sufficient to draw th< 
public, fill the theatre and charm the spectators 
When he disappeared, the Italian Comedy cam< 
to an end. 

The lyrical company which took his place wa 
very talented and sang the operas of Duni, Philida 
and Gretry, etc. The public loved Caillot abov 
all. He left the theatre when I was still ver 
young. Nevertheless, twice I saw him act i: 
Annette et Lubin. His handsome looks an^ 
glorious voice would have remained in my memory 
even though I had not had the pleasure later oi 
of acting in comedy with him in society. Durin| 
one of his greatest successes on the stage a sligh 
accident happened to his throat, as sometime 
happens with the best of singers. Somebody i 
the audience hissed, and Caillot was so deepl 
offended that he abandoned the stage from thj 
evening, and neither prayers nor supplications hav 
induced him to appear in public since. 

Besides his great talent, Caillot had plenty c 
wit. He was very charming in society, whei 


emoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

open-hearted gaiety created an atmosphere of 

yfulness. He was a wonderful story-teller. At 

Dunt de Vaudreuil's at Gennevilliers he was the 

urce of great amusement at table and in the 

on, where he would relate a spicy anecdote or 

ig to us in his beautiful voice the romances 

d ditties of the day. As he was a great sports- 

pn, he was always invited to the shooting parties. 

Dunt de Vaudreuil, with whom he was always on 

iendly terms, induced the Count d'Artois to 

ve him a little pavilion called Le Belloi, that 

as situated at the end of the terrace at Saint 

ermain and had a very pretty garden. 

There, Caillot lived in great happiness with his 

fe and children. I stayed at his house several 

lys, when his happiness reminded me of Lubin, 

lose role I had often seen him perform. In 

ving him the pavilion, the Count d'Artois 

id named him captain of the hunt of the whole 

strict. He wore the uniform of this office, and 

was in that dress that I painted him carrying 

s gun on his shoulder. His handsome, laughing 

oks inspired me so much that I finished the 

Drtrait in one sitting 

When the Revolution came, Caillot fell under 
rave suspicion because he had received favours 
om a prince. I was told, though I refuse to 
dieve, that he proved to be a thankless man 
id behaved like a Jacobin. If the story is true, 
am convinced that fear and his wife turned his 
I have reasons for believing that his wife 


as an ardent revolutionary. 


When I 

was m 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bru 

Rome in 1791, I received a letter from her urgin 
me to return to France, and telling me that w 
should all be equal and that it would be th 
golden age. Fortunately I did not believe hei 
for one knows what sort of golden age it wj 
that followed. Shortly after receiving this lett< 
I learnt that Mme Caillot had thrown herself 01 
of a window in despair. 

Laruette and his wife remained on the stag 
longer than Caillot. They were both perfect i 
their style. Mme Laruette especially acted in 
charming manner with much ingenuity, and san 
with inimitable taste and expression. Thoug 
more than fifty years old, she looked no moi 
than sixteen, her figure being so young and he 
features delicate. Not only did she avoid th 
ridiculous in acting naive persons, but made ther 
charming. Perhaps the enthusiasm and regrets c 
the public were never so strong as on the da 
she left the stage, when she acted for the laj 
time the two young parts in Isabelle et Gertrudi 
and in some other opera. Though I saw her ac 
very rarely, I still remember her perfecdy. 

I come at last to the actress whose dramati 
career I was able to follow in its entirety. Th^ 
was Mme Dugazon, the most perfect talent ths 
the Opera Comique has ever possessed. 

Never has such truthfulness been seen on th 
stage. Mme Dugazon was one of those bor 
talents who seem to owe nothing to study. On 
was unconscious of the actress. One was awar 
only of Babet, Countess d'Albert or Nicolettc 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Noble, naive, graceful, spicy, she had a score of 
aspects, making her accents suit the person. Her 
voice was rather weak, but it was sufficient for 
:ears and laughter, for all situations and roles. 
3retry and Dalayrac, who worked with her, were 
nad about her, and I, too, was mad. 

The latter word reminds me of a role in which 
nany vain attempts have been made to copy her. 
N^obody has ever been able to give us back Nina, 
N^ina at once so sedate and passionate, so unhappy 
ind touching, the mere sight of her drew tears 
From the spectators. I believe I saw Nina twenty 
times at least, and each time my emotion was the 
jame. I was too much thrilled by Mme Dugazon 
|iot to invite her often to supper at my house. 
iVe noticed that after playing Nina she still kept 
her eyes rather haggard, so that she remained 
^ina all the evening. To this power of steeping 
lerself so thoroughly in her role is due, no doubt, 
[he astounding perfection of her talent. 

Mme Dugazon was a royalist in heart and soul. 
This she proved to the public one evening long 
ifter the outbreak of the Revolution, when she 
?vas taking the part of lady's maid in Evenements 
Imprevus. The Queen was present at the per- 
"ormance. In a duet which the valet begins with 
he words " I love my master tenderly," Mme 
Dugazon, whose reply was, " Ah, as I love my 
nistress," turned to Her Majesty's box and sang 
ler lines with great emotion, while bowing towards 
he Queen. I was told that shordy afterwards 
he public (and what a public !) wanted to take 



Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

its revenge for that noble action by insisting on 
her singing some dreadful thing which used to 
be sung on the stage every evening. Mme 
Dugazon would not yield, but left the stage. 

The unusual length of this letter proves, my 
dear friend, how much I loved acting in comedy 
myself, for I have spared you no details. Adieu, 


After Moreau, junior (1776). 

To face p. loi. 


Chantilly — Le Raincy — Mme de Montesson — Old Princess de 
Conti — Gennevilliers — Our plays — The " Marriage of 
Figaro'''' — Beaumarchais — M, et Mme de Villette — Moulin 
Joli — Watelet — M. de Morfontaine — Marquis de 
Montesquieu — My horoscope. 

TO MY GREAT REGRET, I was unable 
to stay in the country for any length of 
time, but I never missed a chance of passing 
a few days there. I was invited to stay at some 
of the finest places in the neighbourhood of Paris. 
I saw the magnificent fetes at Chantilly, organized 
and presided over by the Prince de Conde, who 
returned to France with Louis XVIII. You know 
the splendid Chateau de Chantilly. Its immense 
gallery was then adorned with French armoury 
of different centuries, some of the pieces being so 
enormous and heavy that they seemed to have 
been made for giants. It was, I think, a suitable 
decoration for the house of a descendant of the 
great Cond^. At the end of the gallery was the 
nask of Henri IV, taken immediately after his 
peath and still showing a few hairs of the good 
King's eyebrows. I do not know what became of 
this mask, which was reproduced a good deal in 
plaster. As for the armoury, it was pillaged during 
the Revolution and part of it is now in a museum. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

The chateau had a certain grandeur, which 
made it worthy of its owners. The dining-room 
was very beautiful, having marble columns, between 
which were large marble basins that received 
cascades of limpid and constandy changing water. 
The room seemed to be in the open air and looked 
quite magical. The immense park put one in 
mind of fairyland with its lakes and flower- 
bordered streams. The hamlet was charming, its 
cottages having interiors that sparkled with the 
greatest magnificence. Everything, indeed, made 
ChantiUy a wonderful abode. Strangers went there 
in crowds in the happy days I am talking of, 
when the master of that beautiful place lived 
there amidst the devoted inhabitants, who were 
overwhelmed with his favours and have deeply 
regretted him ever since. 

In 1782 I stayed a short time at Raincy, having, 
been invited there by the Duke of Orleans in 
order to paint his portrait and that of Mme de 
Montesson. With the exception of the pleasure 
I took in joining the shooting parties, I spent a 
rather dull time there. After my sittings, I had 
no agreeable society apart from that of Mme 
Berthollet, a very pleasant woman, who played 
the harp beautifully. Saint-Georges, the clever, 
muscular mulatto, was one of the shooting party, 
It was there that I realized how some men, 
especially princes, get passionately fond of shoot- 
ing. When many people are gathered together, it 
is an exercise that provides a really fine spectacle 
The general fussing about, together with th( 



To face pi 103. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

sound of the horns, is truly something war- 

Talking of this trip, I cannot recall without 
laughing a certain incident that shocked me a 
good deal at the time. While I was painting 
Mme de Montesson, the old Princess de Conti 
came one day on a visit. This Princess always 
called me " mademoiselle." It is true that once 
upon a time great ladies always addressed their 
inferiors in this way. But this disdainful Court 
manner had gone out of fashion with Louis XV. 
I was then about to go to bed with my first child, 
which made the matter altogether odd. 

If my trip to Raincy was not very gay, I cannot 
say the same of my visits to Gennevilliers, which 
then belonged to Count de Vaudreuil, one of the 
most agreeable men in existence. Gennevilliers 
was in no way picturesque. Count de Vaudreuil 
had bought the place largely on behalf of the 
Count d'Artois, because it contained some fine 
ihooting districts, and he had adorned it as well 
IS he could. 

The house was furnished in the best taste, 
though without any magnificence. It had a small 
3Ut charming acting-room, in which my sister- 
n-law, my brother, M. de Riviere and I per- 
formed several comic operas with Mme Dugazon, 
Carat, Caillot and Laruette. 

The two last, who had retired from the stage, 
(acted wonderfully and with such simplicity that 
one day when they were rehearsing the scene 
of the two fathers in Rose et Colas^ I thought they 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

were talking together, and I said to them : " Come, 
let's begin the rehearsal." 

I was given the part of Rose. Garat acted 
that of Colas rather awkwardly, but his singing 
was so wonderful ! He was delightful to hear in 
La Colonie, especially, the music of which is 
ravishing, in my opinion. 

He took the part of Saint-Albe, while I took 
the role of Marine, and my sister-in-law that of 
the countess, which she played like an angel. 
She and M. de Riviere were real actors ; they 
would have shone on the stage. 

The Count d'Artois and his society came to 
witness our performances. 

I confess that I was so afraid of all these fine 
people the first time they came without my having 
been warned, that I did not wish to act. It was 
only through fear of disappointing the friends who 
were to act with me that I decided to appear on 
the stage. And the Count d'Artois, v/ith his 
usual grace, came in the interval between the 
two plays to encourage us with all sorts of 

The last performance given in the acting-room 
at Gennevilliers was that of the Marriage of 
Figaro by the actors of the Comedie Fran^aise. 
I remember Mile Sainval took the part of the 
countess. Mile Olivier that of the page, while 
Mile Con tat was charming in the role of Suzanne. 
Beaumarchais, however, must have worried M. 
de Vaudreuil enormously to succeed in having 
such an inconvenient piece performed in that 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

lieatre. Dialogue and couplets, the whole piece 
n fact, was directed against the Court, of which 
L great part was present, not to mention our 
xcellent Prince. Everybody felt the incon- 
/■enience of such a lack of taste. Beaumarchais, 
lowever, was none the less overwhelmed with 
atisfaction, running about like a man beside 
limself. When a complaint was made about the 
leat, he did not give one time to open the windows, 
)ut smashed all the panes with his walking-stick ; 
vhich led to its being said, after the performance, 
hat he had smashed the windows in more than 
>ne sense. 

Count de Vaudreuil had also to regret in more 
ban one sense having given his patronage to the 
juthor of the Marriage of Figaro, 
\ Shortly after the performance in question, 
ieaumarchais begged him for an interview. His 
squest was granted immediately, and he arrived 
it Versailles so early that the Count had scarcely 
jot out of bed. He then spoke of a financial 

oject he had thought out and which was expected 
bring him much profit. Finally he offered 
fount de Vaudreuil a considerable sum if he 
^ould consent to assist in realizing the project, 
he Count listened to him with the utmost calm, 
'^hen Beaumarchais had finished talking, the 
ount said to him : " Monsieur de Beaumarchais, 

u could not have come at a more favourable 
loment, for I have spent a good night, had a 
ood digestion, and never felt so well as I do 
)-day. If you had made such a proposal to 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bru 

me yesterday, I would have had you thrown ou 
of the window." 

One of the beautiful country places I saw wa 
Villette. The Marquise de Villette, " Belle e 
Bonne," having invited me to visit her there, 
went and stayed several days. Among my papei 
I find some very pretty verses which M. d 
Villette wrote on the occasion of my arrival, 
copy them here and beg you not to forget thj 
it is a poet who speaks : 

J'avais lu dans les vieux auteurs 
Que les dieux autrefois visitaient les pasterus, 
Et qu'ils venaient charmer leur belle solitude : 
J'amais me bercer de ces douces erreurs. 
Embellir ces for^ts devint ma seule etude, 
J'y creai des jardins, je les semai de fleurs j 
Mais des dieux vainement j'attendais la presence. 
O sublime Le Brun ! vous, I'orgueil de la France, 
Dont I'esprit createur, dont I'immortel crayon 
De plaire et d'etonner a la double puissance 
Et fait naitre I'amour par I'admiration, 

La gloire qui vous accompagne 

Aggrandit ce petit chateau j 

Elle ranime la campagne j 

Vous nous rendez le jour plus beau, 
Et vous realisez mes chateaux en Espagne.^ 

' " I had read in old authors that the gods once used to visit shepherc 
in order to give delight to their solitude. I loved to cherish these sweet erra 
It was my one aim to embellish these forests. I created gardens there 
sowed them with flowers. But I waited in vain for the gods to come, 
sublime Le Brun ! you, the pride of France, whose creative spirit and immo] 
pencil had power both to please and astonish, and to make love spring fr< 
admiration, the glory that accompanies you, increases the size of this lit 
chateau and enlivens the country. You make the day more beautiful for 
and realize my castles in Spain." 


femoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

\ Once we found in the park a man who was 
Minting the fences. This dauber was so efficient 
iiat M. de Villette compHmented him. 
I " Me ! " the man replied. " I make a point of 
otting out in a day what Rubens painted in a 

Mme de Villette was a very graceful hostess, 
le was, above all, extremely benevolent. In her 
^rk I saw a round, natural hillock where she 
ias said to gather the village maidens and teach 
lem like a schoolmaster. 

I Ah ! how I would have loved to go for walks 
ith you in the wood at Moulin Joli ! It was 
le of those places one never forgets, so beautiful, 
I varied, picturesque, Elysian, wild, ravishing ! 
nagine a large island covered with woods, gardens 
id orchards, cut through the middle by the 
bine. The shores were connected by a bridge 

boats, decorated along the sides with boxes of 
)wers, while seats placed at intervals allowed 
le to enjoy the balmy air and wonderful 
ews a long while. The bridge, seen from afar 
Jth its reflection in the water, had a most charming 
ect. Lofty trees of sturdy aspect lined the 

ht shore, while the left was covered with 

ormous poplars and weeping-willows, whose 

inder green branches reached down to the water 

e bowers. One of these willows formed a 

rge vault beneath which one could rest or dream 

ilightfuUy. Words fail to express the happiness 

felt in that delightful spot, with which I have 

sver seen anything to be compared. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brt 

This Elysian place belonged to an acquaintanc 
of niine, M. Watelet, a great lover of the ar 
and the author of a poem on painting. He w; 
a very distinguished man, of an attractive dii 
position, who had a good number of friend 
On his enchanted island I found him in keepin 
with all his surroundings. There he gracefull 
received a small but very well-chosen compan] 
A friend (Marguerite Lecomte), to whom he hs 
been attached over thirty years, was established i 
his house, time having, so to speak, sanctifie 
their relationship, so that they were received i 
the best society, together with the lady's husban( 
who, strange to say, never left her. 

Later on, in 1788, Moulin Joli was bought I 
a certain M. Gaudran, a wealthy merchant, wl 
invited me and my family to stay a month ther 
The new owner had no idea of what was picturesqu 
and I was sorry to see that he had already spoi 
some parts of that Elysian place. Happily tl 
chief beauties had remained intact. Robert, tl 
landscape painter, and I found all the enchantme 
of the place once again. During the visit 
question I painted one of my best portraits, th 
of Robert, with my palette in my hand. Lebrui 
Pindare composed his Exegi Monumentum^ a prou 
piece justified by its beauty. My brother aL 
wrote some very pretty verses. Those woo( 
inspired all of us. M. de Calonne, who ga^ 
me so many things, as you are aware, is said ■ 
have given me Moulin Joli as well. Ah ! if 
had had Moulin Joli, I would never have left i 

lemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

ly great regret, however, is not to have bought 

on my return to France, when it was for sale. 

was prevented from buying it through the 
^lay of some funds I was expecting from Russia. 
: was sold for eighty thousand francs to a copper- 
nith, who recovered his outlay by cutting down 
1 the beautiful trees. And now, when my 
lemory takes me back to that delightful place, I 
nn filled with the sad thought of its complete 

Shordy before the Revolution I went to Mor- 
)ntaine, and from there we made a trip to 
rmenonville, where I saw the tomb of J. J. 
ousseau. The fame of the beautiful park of 
rmenonville spoilt the pleasure of the trip for 
le. There were inscriptions at almost every step — 
veritable tyranny over the mind. 

At Morfontaine I always preferred the pic- 
iresque part of the park which is not set out 
the English way, where there is now a great 
ke. All artists accord it the front rank in its 
^nd. At the time I mention, M. de Morfontaine 
ad adorned it with canals, on which we used to 
boating. The lake was not then so large, 
ad was divided by charming islands. At present 
lere is only one small island, which looks to mc 
ce a piece of pastry in the middle of that immense 
retch of water. 

M. de Morfontaine received his visitors with 
ich unaffected kindness that they felt quite at 
Dme. Count de Vaudreuil, Lebrun the poet, 
le Chevalier de Coigny, so amiable and gay, 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Bru 

Brogniart, Robert, Riviere and my brother, playe 
charades every night and woke one another u 
to tell them. This foolish gaiety proves ho^ 
great was the freedom one enjoyed in that beautifi 
place. In truth, order was banished from it i 
well as awkwardness. Happily we were all inti 
mate friends and few in number, for I have neve 
seen a house-party so ill-behaved. M. de Moi 
fontaine carried the Bohemianism to an unimagin 
able degree, and you can realize how much hJ 
house was affected by such a mode of living. 

In those days M. Le Pelletier de Morfontairi 
was merchants' provost. He built one of tl: 
bridges of Paris. I remember he used to can 
in his pocket a little note-book in which he cor 
stantly wrote the remarkable things he heard i 
society. I often tried to read over his shoulde 
but though his letters were very large, I was nev< 
able to decipher a single word, so shapeless w 
his handwriting. I challenge his heirs to mal 
head or tail of the memoirs he must have left. 

On arriving at Maupertuis after Morfontain 
one could not help comparing the two house 
The difference was striking. Order and magn 
ficence reigned everywhere at Maupertuis. I 
the latter place, M. de Montesquiou lived like 
great gentleman. Being equerry to Monsiet 
(later Louis XVIII), he had no difficulty in puttir 
at our disposal horses, caleches and carriages 
every sort. The meals were splendid. Tt 
chateau was large enough to accommodate thirt 
or forty households, all well lodged and cared fo 





iemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

I , — — — __ 

^nd this numerous company was constantly 

; The mother and wife of M. de Montesquiou 

i^ere extremely kind to me. His daughter-in-law, 

l^ho later became governess to Napoleon's son, 

ms gentle, natural, and very lovable. I had 

ften seen him in Paris, and he always seemed to 

jie very witty, though dry and censorious. At 

llaupertuis he was gende and affable — in a word, 

(together another man. Whenever we happened 

) be just a few, he would read to us in the evening 

an excellent way. It was at Maupertuis, while 

was with child and unwell, that I painted his 

or trait and have never been satisfied with it since. 

I remember one evening when we were few 

number, the Marquis drew the horoscope of 

ich one of us. He foretold I should live a long 

lile and become a lovable old woman, because 

was not coquettish. Now that I have lived a 

ng while, am I a lovable old woman ? I doubt 

But at least I am an old lover, for I love you 




The Duke de Nivernais — Marechal de Noailles — His saying 
Louis XV — Mme Du Barry — Louveciennes — Duke de Brisi 
— His death — Mme Du Barry's death — Portraits I paint 
at Louveciennes. 

with the Duke de Nivernais, who assemble 
in a beautiful house the most agreeable socie 
in existence. 

The Duke de Nivernais, whose grace and refin 
ment have become household words, had not 
and gentle manners without the least afFectatio 
He was noted above all for his extremely galla 
behaviour towards women of all ages. In tl 
respect I might have referred to him as a matchl< 
example, had I not known Count de Vaudrei 
who, though much younger than M. de Niverna 
coupled an exquisite gallantry with a politenc 
that was all the more flattering because it car, 
from the heart. It is, however, very difficult 
convey an adequate idea of the urbanity, t' 
gracious ease and pleasant manners, which ga 
so much charm to Paris society forty yej 
ago. The gallantry of which I talk, for instan* 
has completely vanished. In those days, worn 
reigned ; the Revolution dethroned them. 


lemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

The Duke de Nivernais was small and very 
lin. Though already very old, when I knew 
im, he was yet full of life. He was passionately 
)nd of poetry and wrote charming verses. 

I also dined often with the Marechal de Noailles 
t his beautiful chateau situated at the entrance 
) Saint Germain. It had then a very large, well- 
ept park. The Marechal was very nice. His 
it and mirth kept all the guests lively. The 
tter he chose from among the literary celebrities 
nd the foremost people of the town and Court. 
lis wit was original and effective. He could 
arely resist the desire to express a mischievous 
lought. It was he who said to Louis XV, when 
be latter discovered the olives he was eating at 
le hunt were bad : " It must be the bottom 
f the barrel. Sire." This remark brings to my 
jiind a woman whom I have not yet mentioned, 
lough I knew a good deal about her. She was 

woman who sprang from the lowest class of 
bciety and passed through the palace of a king 
n her way to the scaffold, and whose sad end 
tones for the scandalous dazzle of her life. It 
^as in 1786 that I first went to Louveciennes, 
^here I had promised to paint Mme Du Barry. 

was extremely curious to see this favourite, of 
hom I had heard so often. Mme Du Barry 

ust have been then about forty-five years old. 

e was big, though not too much so. She was 

ump. Her throat was rather strong but very 
reautiful. Her face was still charming, the features 
leing regular and graceful. Her hair was ash- 

H 113 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Bru 

coloured and curly like a child's. Only he 
complexion began to spoil. 

She received me very gracefully and seeme 
to me to have a very good style. I thoughi 
however, that she was more natural in he 
mind than in her manners. Besides havin; 
the look of a coquette, for her eyes wer 
never completely open, she had a pronunciatioi 
that sounded childish and was ill-suited to he 

She put me up in a suite of rooms behind th 
machine at Marly which annoyed me terribl' 
with its noise. Underneath my apartment wa 
a neglected gallery in which was a great disarra; 
of busts, vases, columns, rare marbles and lots o 
valuable objects. One might have thought the] 
belonged to the mistress of several sovereigns wh( 
had enriched her with their gifts. These relic 
of grandeur were in direct contrast with tb 
simplicity of the mistress of the house in he 
clothes and mode of life. 

Summer and winter, Mme Du Barry never won 
anything but dressing-gown robes of cambric o: 
white muslin, while every day in all weather 
she went for walks in her park or outside withou 
any mischievous result, her life in the country 
having made her health so robust. She had kep 
up no relations with the Court that had surroundec 
her so long. Mme de Souza, the wife of di( 
Portuguese Ambassador, and the Marquise dt 
|;| Brunoy were, I believe, the only women she sa\^ 

at that time, and during my three visits to hei 



By herself. 

To face p. 115. 


demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

louse, at three different periods, I realized that 
isitors never troubled her solitude.^ 

I do not know, however, why the Ambassadors 

f Tippoo-Sahib thought themselves obliged to 

►ay a visit to the former mistress of Louis XV. 

>J^ot only did they come to Louveciennes, but 

ley brought presents for Mme Du Barry, among 

ther things several pieces of muslin richly em- 

iroidered in gold. She gave me one of them, a 

uperb piece of work with large, separate flowers, 

he colours and gold of which were shaded perfectly. 

Most evenings Mme Du Barry and I sat alone 

y the fireside. Sometimes she talked to me of 

^ouis XV and his Court, always with the greatest 

fspect for the one and the greatest regard for 

jie other. But she avoided all details. It was 

^vious she preferred to say as little as possible 

out the matter, so that her conversation was 

nerally rather trifling. Nevertheless, she was a 

nd woman both in speech and action, and did 

uch good at Louveciennes, where the poor 

^ere looked after by her. We often went together 

) visit some unfortunate man or woman, and I 

imember her just indignation one day when she 

w a woman in child-birth who lacked every- 

ing. " How is this ! " cried Mme Du Barry. 

You have neither linen, nor wine, nor bouillon ? " 

-" Alas ! I have nothing. Madam." We went 

ick to the chateau immediately and Mme Du 

• I often met there M. de Monville. He was pleasant and very elegant, 
d took us to see his estate called Le Desert, the house of which was only a 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bn 

Barry sent for her housekeeper and other servan 
who had failed to carry out her orders. I ca 
hardly describe her fury against them all, whi 
she made them do up a parcel of linen and sei 
them off with it at once, together with son 
bouillon and Bordeaux wine. | 

Every day after dinner we took coffee in tli 
pavilion that is so famous for its style and tl 
wealth of its adornments. The first time Mn 
Du Barry showed it to me she said to me : '* 
is in this room that Louis XV gave me the honoi 
of dining with me. There was a tribune abov 
for the musicians who sang during the meal 
The salon was delightful. Besides having one 
the most beautiful outlooks in the world, it hi 
chimneys and doors of most valuable workmanshi 
Even the locks could be admired as masterpiec 
of the goldsmith's art, while the furniture was 
an indescribable richness and elegance. 

Louis XV no longer stretched himself out ( 
those magnificent sofas. His place was taken 1 
the Duke de Brissac, whom we often left thei 
as he liked to take his nap. The Duke de Briss 
lived as though settled at Louveciennes, but the 
was nothing in his manners or in those of Mn 
Du Barry to suggest that he was anything mo: 
than the friend of the mistress of the chatea 
However, it was easy to see that a tender attacl 
ment united them. Perhaps it was this vei 
attachment that cost them their lives. When Mn 
Du Barry crossed over to England before tl 
outbreak of the Terror in order to recover h( 


From the painting by Madame Le Brun (1789). 

To r'acep. 117. 

demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

tolen diamonds, she was very well received by 
he English. They did all in their power to 
)revent her from returning to France. In fact, 
he was just on the point of leaving when some 
fiends unharnessed her horses. Only her desire 

rejoin the Duke de Brissac, whom she had 
eft hidden in her chateau at Louveciennes, caused 
ler to resist the entreaties of those who wished to 
ieep her in London, where the sale of her diamonds 
^^ould have maintained her in comfort. To her 
nisfortune, she left and went to rejoin the Duke 
t Louveciennes. Shortly after, he was arrested 
tefore her eyes and thrown into prison at Orleans, 
"rom there he was taken with three others, 
ostensibly for transference to Versailles. All four 
i^ere put into a tumbril and, scarcely half-way on 
he journey, ruthlessly massacred ! 

1 The bloody head of the Duke de Brissac was 
fiken to Mme Du Barry, and you can imagine 
low much that unhappy woman must have suffered 
jt the horrible sight. She was not long in suc- 
lambing to the fate reserved for those who 
bssessed any fortune, as well as for those who had 

great name. She was betrayed and denounced 
a little negro called Zamore, who is often 
entioned in memoirs of the time as having 
en overwhelmed with her kindnesses as well 
those of Louis XV. Arrested and thrown into 
ison, Mme Du Barry was judged and condemned 
death by the Revolutionary Tribunal at the 
ad of 1793. She was the only woman among 
) many who perished in those frightful days 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bru) 

who was unable to bear the sight of the scaffold 
She cried out, implored the mercy of the atrocioui 
crowd that surrounded her, and that crowd wai 
moved to such an extent that the executionei 
made haste to finish his job. This has alwayj 
convinced me that if the victims of that execrabL 
time had not had the noble pride to die courageously 
the Terror would have ended much sooner. Mei 
of undeveloped intelligence have too little imagina 
tion to be moved by an inward suffering, and th^ 
people's pity is much more easily excited than it 

I painted three portraits of Mme Du Barry 
In the first I painted her en busie, a small three 
quarters, attired in a dressing-gown with a stra\ 
hat. In the second she is dressed in white satin 
holding a garland in one hand, while one of he 
arms leans on a pedestal. I painted this portrai 
with the utmost care. Like the first, it wa 
designed for the Duke de Brissac. I saw it agaii 
quite recendy. The old General who now own 
it must have had the head touched up, for it ] 
not the one I painted. It has rouge right up t 
the eyes, whereas Mme Du Barry never use 
any. I disown, therefore, this head, which is no 
my work. The rest of the picture is intact ani 
well preserved. It has just been sold, the Genen 
having died. 

The third portrait of Mme Du Barry by m 
is in my possession. I began it towards the middl 
of September 1789. At Louveciennes we hear 
the sound of endless cannonades, and I remembe 

Memoirs oj Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

the poor woman saying to me : *' If Louis XV 
had been alive, nothing like this would have 

I had only painted the head and sketched the 
figure and arms when I was obliged to make a 
journey to Paris, hoping to return to finish the 
portrait. Berthier and Foulon, however, had just 
been assassinated. My terror was so great that 
I could think of nothing but leaving the country 
at once. I left the picture half-finished. I do 
not know how Count Louis de Narbonne happened 
to come by it during my absence. On my return 
to France I received it back from him, and I 
have now finished it. 

The sad contents of this letter warns me that 
I have come to the period of my life which I 
should like to be able to forget. I would stifle 
ftll memory of it, as I often do, had I not promised 
:o give you a sincere and complete account of my 

There will no longer be any question of enjoy- 
Inents, Grecian suppers, or comedies, but days of 
mguish and terror. I will put off telling you 
ibout them till my next letter. 



Romainville — Markhal de Segur — La MalmaUon — Mme Le 
Couteux du Malay — VAhhe Sieyes — Alme Juguier — A 
saying of the Queen — Mme Campan — Her letter — Mme 
Rousseau — The first Dauphin, 

I CANNOT THINK of the last country 
seats I visited, without finding the memory 
of my sweetest moments mingled with many 
a painful memory as well. In 1788, for instance, 
I went with Robert to stay a few days at Romain- 
ville, the home of the Marechal de Segur. On 
our way we noticed that the peasants no longer 
doffed their hats to us. On the contrary, they 
looked at us insolently, while some even threatened 
us with their sticks. On arriving at Romainville 
we were overtaken by a terrible thunderstorm. 
The sky was of a yellowish colour, tinged with 
dark grey, and when these terrifying clouds split 
up, thousands of lightning flashes came out to" 
the accompaniment of fearful thunder and such 
enormous hailstones that they laid waste the whole 
of the country forty leagues around Paris. During 
the storm, Mme de Segur and I looked at each 
other with fear and trembling. We seemed to 
see in that terrible day an omen of the misfortunes 
which, without being an astrologer, one could 
have then foretold. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

That evening and the following day we all 
vvent with the Marechal to look at the sad effect 
Df the storm. Corn, vines, fruit trees — everything 
was destroyed. The peasants were weeping and 
tearing at their hair. Everyone hastened to help 
these unfortunate people. The great landowners 
gave a lot of money. One rich man immediately 
distributed forty thousand francs out of his own 
pocket among the ill-fated people around him. 
ro the shame of mankind, this very man was 
3ne of the first to be massacred by the revolutionary 
:annibals the following year. 

The summer of the same year, 1788, I spent 
I fortnight at Malmaison, which then belonged to 
he Countess du Molay. Mme du Molay was a 
TQTj fashionable, pretty woman. Her wit was 
lot electrifying, but she had an intelligent under- 
tanding of other people's. Count Olivares was 
;stablished in her house at the time, and she had 
5aid him a compliment by having placed at the 
mtrance to a road at the top of the park an 
nscription bearing the words : " Sierra Morena." 
31ivares was not what may be called a pleasant 
nan. The most outstanding feature I noticed 
ibout him was his dirtiness. He filled his pockets 
vith Spanish snuff, using them in place of snuff- 

The Duke de Crillon and the dear Abbe 
Delille came to Malmaison very often, and I was 
rery glad to meet them there. Mme du Molay 
vas very fond of going for lonely walks, while 

had a similar preference. So it was agreed 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

that we should carry a sprig of foliage if either 
of us did not wish to be accompanied or approached, 
I never went without my sprig, but I threw it 
away pretty sharp whenever I caught sight of the 
Abbe Delille. 

In June 1789 I went to dine at Malmaison. 
I found there the Abbe Sieyes and several othei 
friends of the Revolution. M. du Molay ravec 
at the top of his voice against the nobles. Every- 
body shouted, laying down the law as to all the 
things necessary for a general upheaval. One 
could have called it a real club. The conversations 
frightened me terribly. After dinner the Abbe 
Sieyes said to one of the persons whose name 
I've forgotten : " Really, I believe we shall gc 
too far." — *' They will go so far that they wil 
get lost on the way," I remarked to Mme du 
Molay, who had also heard the Abbe and waJ 
grieved at so many gloomy portents. 

Round about the same time I stayed a fev^ 
days at Marly with Mme Auguier, the sister o 
Mme Campan, who was also in the service of th< 
Queen. She had a fine chateau and park neaj 
the machine. One day, as we were togethei 
looking out of a window overlooking the courtyarc 
which faced the main road, we saw a drunker 
man enter and roll on the ground. With hei 
usual kindness, Mme Auguier called her husband*! 
manservant and told him to go and help the poor 
man, take him to the kitchen and look after him. 
A few moments later the manservant returned 
" You are far too kind, Madame," he said. *' Th 



From the painting by Madame Le Brun (1786). 

10 laCC p. 122. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

man is a wretch. Here are the papers that fell 
out of his pocket.'* He handed us several copy- 
books, one of which began thus : " Down with 
the Royal Family ! Down with the nobles ! 
Down with the priests ! " Then followed a revo- 
lutionary litany and a lot of dreadful predictions, 
written in a way that made one's hair stand on 
end. Mme Auguier sent for the Horse Patrol, 
who were then policing the villages. Four of 
these military arrived and were requested to take 
the man away and get information about him. 
They took him' away. The manservant, however, 
who followed them unobserved, saw them at the 
turn of the road link arm-in-arm with the prisoner, 
jumping and singing with him as though they 
w^ere on the best of terms. I am at a loss to 
describe how greatly we were frightened by this. 
What were we coming to, my God ! when the 
public authority made common cause with the 
guilty ? 

I had advised Mme Auguier to show the copy- 
books to the Queen. A few days later, being in 
attendance, she gave them to the Queen to read. 
Her Majesty returned them, saying : *' These 
things are impossible. I will never believe they 
are planning such atrocities." Alas ! events were 
only too soon in removing that noble doubt. And 
besides the Royal victim who refused to believe 
such horrors possible, poor Mme Auguier herself 
was destined to pay for her devotion with her life. 

Her devotion never flinched. Knowing that 
the Queen was without money during the cruel 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

days of the Revolution, she quickly lent her 
twenty-five louis. The revolutionaries got to know 
about it and came at once to the palace of the 
Tuileries to take her to prison, or, rather to the 

Seeing them arrive with their furious looks 
and threatening speech, Mme Auguier preferred 
a prompt death to the anguish of falling into their 
hands. She threw herself out of the window and 
was killed. 

I have known few women so beautiful and 
lovable as Mme Auguier. She was tall and 
shapely. Her face was remarkably fresh-com- 
plexioned, milk and rose, and her eyes revealed 
her loving-kindness. She left two children, whom 
I have known since their childhood at Marly, 
One married the Marechal Ney, the other M. de 
Broc. The latter girl came to an ill-starred end 
while yet young. When travelling with Mme 
Louis Bonaparte, her bosom friend, she went for 
an excursion to Ancenis and wanted to cross a 
deep chasm on a plank. The plank gave way 
beneath her feet and the unfortunate woman 
plunged to her death in the abyss. 

Mme Auguier had two sisters. One was Mme 
Campan, well known as the first lady-in-waiting 
to the Queen and as the clever directress of the 
educational establishment at Saint Germain, where 
the daughters of all the notabilities of the Empire 
were educated. I knew Mme Campan at Ver- 
sailles at the time she enjoyed all the favour and 
confidence of the Queen. I had no suspicion 

After Dugourc {Musee du Louvre). 

To face p. 124. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

whatever of her ever failing to keep her devotion 
and gratitude to her august mistress for so many 
kindnesses received. When I was staying in St. 
Petersburg, I heard her accused of having for- 
saken and betrayed the Queen. Unable to dis- 
cover anything but the most infamous calumny in 
such an accusation, I took up the cudgels of 
defence on behalf of my countrywoman and 
Kxclaimed several times : '* It is impossible ! " 
fTwo years later, on my return to France, I 
received the following letter from Mme Campan, 
copy it so that you may read her justification, 
which appears to me to bear all the marks of 
sincerity : 

Saint Germain, 

January inth {Old Style). 

At a great distance from me you said, dear Madame : "It is 
mpossible ! " A true mind, goodness and sensibility were the 
juides of your opinion. These rare qualities, rare indeed in 
:hese days, are, happily for me, to be found united in you to 
alents still more rare. You understand what is impossible for 
ne, as deeply as I am grateful to you for having declared it. In 
ruth, how can one believe I could ever separate for a moment 
ny sentiments, opinions and devotion from everything that I 
wed to the unfortunate being who, day by day, gave happiness 
:o me and mine, and whose retention of the rights attacked by 

perfidious and bloody faction assured happiness for all and 
specially for me ? I have, on the contrary, had the privilege 
of giving her undoubted proofs of a gratitude such as she had 
the right to expect. My poor Sister Auguier and I, though I 
was not on duty, faced death in order not to leave her during 
that horrible night of August loth. After that massacre we 
remained hidden and frightened to death in the houses of Paris, 
where we regained strength enough to get as far as the Feuillants 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

and to serve her again during her first detention at the Assembly. 
Petion alone separated us from her, when we endeavoured to 
follow her to the Temple. In face of such true and simple 
facts, in which I am far from deriving any vanity, you may well 
ask how it is possible for one to be so oddly calumniated. Was 
it not because I had to be made to pay dearly for the constant 
and signal favour shown me during so many years ? Is favour 
at a Court ever forgiven, even when it is bestowed on a person 
of the household ? They tried to disgrace me in the eyes of 
the Queen, that is all. They did not succeed, however ; and 
one day it will be known to what degree she continued to esteem 
and trust me in the most important matters. I must, howeverjj 
add, in order not to disguise anything that may have caused my 
real sentiments to be misconstrued, that I was never able to bring 
my mind to accept the emigration plan. I considered it to be 
harmful to the emigrants, and according to my ideas at that time 
still more harmful to Louis XVI. Living at the Tuileries, I 
was constantly struck by the thought that there was only a 
quarter of a league's distance from the palace to the insurgent 
suburbs, and a hundred leagues from Coblence or the protecting 
armies. In mind and feeling women are talkative ; far toe 
often I expressed my opinion on this subject, which at that time 
was the hope of everybody. My fears were inspired by a senti- 
ment utterly different from the mad and criminal love of i 
dreadful revolutionary. Time has justified them only too well 
and the numberless victims of that project should prevent thos< 
fears from being any longer imputed to me as a crime. 

However, I am living at present under a different form, 
am entirely devoted to it, with the peace of heart that knows no 
cause for self-reproach. For some time past I have been longing 
to show you the outlines of my plan of education, to receiv< 
your visit and to pay you my honours as a sincere and valuabl 
friend. Choose a day with interesting and unfortunate Mmi 
Rousseau, and it will be like a feast day for me. Accep 
my affection, esteem, gratitude and all my devoted sentiment 
for you. 

Genet Campan, 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Beside Mme Campan, Mme Auguier had another 
sister, named Mme Rousseau, a very nice woman, 
whom the Queen had attached to the service of 
the first Dauphin. She frequently offered me 
hospitality, when I had sittings at the Court. 
The young Prince, whom she attended, became 
50 much attached to her that two days before 
his death he said to her : *' I love you so much, 
Rousseau, that I shall still love you after death.'* 

Mme Rousseau's husband was fencing-master 
to the young Princes of France. Hence, being 
doubly attached to the Royal Family, he was 
unable to escape death. He was taken and guillo- 
tined. I was told that after delivering judgment 
:he judge had the villainy to call out to him : 
' Parry that blade, Rousseau I " 

In relating these horrors I am encroaching on 
he time I have yet to tell you about till the day 

left France. In my next letter I will resume 
le story of the sad events which obliged me to 
ee from my country in order to find in foreign 
mds not only my safety but also the kindness 
rhich you heaped upon me during my stay in 
ussia, and of which I keep so sweet a memory. 



1789 — My terror — / take refuge at M. Brongniart — M. di 
Somhreuil — Pamela — The ^th October — The Royal Family 
taken from Versailles — / leave Paris — My companions in thi 
coach — / cross the mountains. 

THE FEARFUL YEAR 1789 had begur 
and terror had already taken hold of al 
far-seeing people. I remember how th 
greater part of the people who came to a concer 
at my house one evening came in with a distraugh 
look. They had been to the morning parade 
Longchamp, when the populace gathered abou 
the Etoile barrier had heaped most dreadful insult 
on the people who drove past in their carriage* 
The wretches jumped on to the carriage steps 
shouting : '* Next year it will be your turn 
run behind your carriages, while we shall 
inside ! " besides a thousand other more infamou 
remarks. These accounts naturally saddened m 
evening. I remember noticing that the leaj 
alarmed was Mme de Villette, Voltaire's " 6e/i 
et bonne. ^^ 

As for me, I had little need to hear fresh detai 
in order to foresee the dreadful things that wei 
in the making. I knew without a doubt th; 
my house in the Rue du Gros Chenet, where 
had settled but three months previously, w; 

',moirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

irked down by the miscreants. Sulphur was 
rown into our cellars through the air-holes. 
I stood at my window, rude rag-tails would 
ake their fists at me. Hundreds of sinister 
mours reached me from all quarters. My life 
IS nothing but a daily round of anxiety and 
ofound grief. 

My health began to weaken visibly. Two good 

ends of mine, Brongniart the architect and his 

fe, came to see me and found me so thin and 

anged that they entreated me to go and stay a 

N days with them. I gratefully accepted the 

er. Brongniart had an apartment at the In- 

des. I was taken there by a doctor attached 

the Palais Royal, whose servants wore the 

leans livery, the only one respected at the 

ne. I was given the best bed. As I was unable 

eat, I was fed on excellent Bordeaux wine and 

kiillon. Mme Brongniart never left my side. 

much care should have calmed my spirit, 

ce my friends saw things in much less sombre 

ours than I did. Nevertheless, it was impossible 

them to remove my fear of the evils I foresaw. 

that's the use of living ? What's the use of 

dng care of oneself ? " I often said to my 

ends, for my fear of the future disgusted me 

th life. I must say, however, that notwith- 

nding the depth of my imagination I did not 

ess but a part of the crimes that were committed 

er on. 

I remember supping at Brongniart's house with 
. de Sombreuil, the Governor of the Invalides 

I 129 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Br 

at that time. He told us that an attempt w 
going to be made to get hold of the arms he hi 
in store. *' But," he added, " I have hiddi 
them so thoroughly that I defy them to find therr 
The good man did not think that it was no long 
possible to rely on anybody but oneself. As t 
arms were carried off pretty soon after, he ^^ 
no doubt betrayed by the servants of the house 
had employed. 

M. de Sombreuil, whose private virtues were 
admirable as his military talents, was among t 
prisoners who were to be massacred in the prise 
on September 2nd. The assassins spared his 1 
on account of the tears and supplications of 
heroic daughter. Nevertheless, they were atrocic 
even in their pardon, for they forced Mile de So 
breuil to drink a glass of the blood which was beJ 
shed in torrents in the prison ! For a very Li 
time afterwards the sight of anything red can 
that unhappy girl to vomit distressingly. La 
on (in 1794) M. de Sombreuil was sent to 
scaffold by the revolutionary tribunal. These t 
events inspired the poet Legouve with the m 
beautiful line of his verses : 

Des bourreaux I'ont absous, des juges I'ont frappe, 

M. de Sombreuil left a son, who was remarka 
for his character and courage. He commanc 
one of the regiments that came from England 
Quib^ron towards the end of 1795. When 
National Convention violated the capitulation sigi 
by General Hoche, M. de Sombreuil met 

By Madame Le Brun [Musee de Versailles). 

To face p. 131, 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

death like a brave man. He refused to have his 
;yes bandaged, and himself gave the order to 
ihoot. At the moment of execution Tallien said 
:o him : " Sir, you come from a very un- 
brtunate family." — " I came to avenge it," replied 
VI. de Sombreuil. " But I am only able to 
mitate it." 

Mme Brongniart took me for a walk behind the 
[nvalides. Near by were some peasants' houses. 
Awhile we were sitting against one of these hovels 
ve overheard the conversation of two men who 
vere unaware of our presence. " If you want 
o earn ten francs," said one, " come and help 
IS make a row. You've only got to shout : 
Down with this ! Down with the other ! 
md above all shout as loud as ever against 

ayonne." — *' Ten francs are worth having," 
nswered the other. *' But shan't we get cud- 
dled ? "— " What next ! " rejoined the first. " We 
re the people who do the cudgelling." You can 
magine what effect was produced on me by this 

The following day we happened to pass in 
ront of the iron railings of the Invalides, where 
here was an immense crowd of those nasty people 
vho had made a habit of walking up and down 
mder the galleries of the Palais Royal. They 
i^ere all ragged vagabonds, neither peasants nor 
i^orkmen, obviously with no occupation but that 
f bandits, judging from their frightful faces. 
i/Ime Brongniart, who kept a stouter heart than 
, tried to reassure me. But I was so frightened 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

that I was about to turn back home, when we 
saw a horse arrive with a young woman in the 
saddle, wearing a riding habit and a hat with black 
plumes. The horrible gang immediately made wa)j 
for the young woman, who was followed by twc 
riders in the Orleans livery. I recognized a 
once the beautiful Pamela, whom Mme de Genlij 
had brought to my house. She was then in al 
the beauty of her freshness and truly ravishing 
We heard the whole horde cry out : " Here yov 
are ! Here's the one we ought to have for Queen ! * 
Pamela went on riding up and down in the mids 
of that disgusting mob, which led me to some verj 
gloomy reflections. I 

Shortly after I returned to my house, but wa 
unable to go on living there. Society seemed t( 
me breaking up altogether, honest folk bein^ 
without any protection whatever, for the Gard' 
Nationale was so oddly made up that it reveale( 
a mixture as weird as it was frightful. Fea 
showed its effects on everybody, Pregnant wome: 
I saw passing made me feel quite sad ; most c 
them were jaundiced with fright. In this respec 
I have noticed that the generation born durin 
the Revolution is much less robust than its fore 
runner. How many children must have bee: 
born weak and ailing in those sad days ! 

M. de Riviere, the Charge d'Affaires of Saxon] 
whose daughter married my brother, came 
offer me his hospitality. I spent two weeks 

I She afterwards married Lord Fitzgerald, 
still alive though much altered. 


She is his widow now, beii 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

least in his house. It was there that I saw the 
busts of the Duke of Orleans and M. Necker 
carried in procession, followed by a great crowd 
shouting that one would be their king and the 
other their protector. The same evening these 
[honest folk came back. They set fire to the 
barrier at the end of our street (Rue Chauss^e 
d'Antin), tore up the paving and erected barri- 
cades, shouting : *' The enemy is coming ! " The 
enemy never came : alas ! the enemy was in 

Though I was treated at M. de Riviere's like 
pne of his children, and was able to feel safe under 
bis roof, as he was a Foreign Minister, I had made 
up my mind to leave France. For several years 
I had been longing to go to Rome. The great 
number of portraits I had undertaken to paint 
was the sole cause of my delay. However, if 
the moment for departure was ever to arrive, it 
had certainly come at that time. I could no 
onger paint. My imagination was darkened and 
wilted by so many horrors, and ceased to find 
satisfaction in my art. Moreover, frightful libels 
were being poured out on my friends and 
acquaintances, even on myself, alas ! Though I 
had never harmed anyone, my thoughts were 
vrery much like those of the man who said : " They 
kccuse me of having taken the towers of Notre- 
Dame. They are still in their place ; but I am 
^oing off, for it is obvious they have a grudge 
igainst me." 

I left several portraits I had begun, including 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

that of Mme Contat. I refused also to paint 
Mile de la Borde (later Duchess de Noailles), 
who was brought to me by her father. She was 
hardly sixteen years old and charming. But for 
me there was no longer any question of success 
and fortune. The only question was how to! 
save one's head. Consequently, I had my carriage 
loaded and had got my passport ready to leave 
with my daughter and governess on the following 
day, when I saw my drawing-room invaded by a 
great crowd of National Guards with firearms. 
Most of them were drunk, ill-dressed and horrible 
looking. Some of them came up to me and 
told me in the rudest language that I was not to 
leave and would have to remain. I answered 
that everybody was now called to enjoy freedom 
and that I wished to avail myself of it on my 
own account. They scarcely listened to me, and 
kept repeating : " You shall not leave, citizeness, 
you shall not leave." At last they went away, 
was still writhing with anxiety when I saw two 
others enter. They did not frighten me, however, 
though they were of the same band, for I was 
quick to comprehend that they did not wish me 
any harm. *' Madame," said one, " we are your 
neighbours. We have come to advise you to 
leave as soon as possible. You could not go on 
living here. You are so altered that we ft 
sorry for you. But don't go in your carriage 
Take the diligence. It is safer." 

I thanked them with all my heart, and followe 
their good advice. I sent out to have three places 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

reserved, wishing to take with me my daughter, 
who was then about five or six years old. I was 
unable to get the places till a fortnight later, 
since all the people who were emigrating were 
leaving, like me, by diligence. 

At last the long-awaited day arrived. It was 
the 5th of October, the same day the King 
and Queen were brought from Versailles to 
Paris in the midst of pikes ! My brother 
witnessed the arrival of their Majesties at the 
Hotel de Ville. He heard the speech of M. 
Bailly, and knowing that I was to leave during 
the night, he came to my house about ten 
o'clock in the evening. " Never," he told me, 
" was the Queen more like a Queen than she 
yvas to-day, when she came looking so calm 
and noble in the midst of those madmen." Then 
be told me of the beautiful answer she had given 
M. Bailly : "I have seen everything, known 
bverything, and I have forgotten everything." 

The events of that journey overwhelmed me 
tvith so great an anxiety for the welfare of their 
Majesties, and of all people of standing, that at 
tnidnight I was dragged out to the diligence in 
fm indescribable state. I was very much afraid 
)f the Faubourg St. Antoine, which I had to 
raverse in order to reach the Trone turnpike- 
^ate. My brother, M. Robert and my husband 
kccompanied me as far as that gate, without 
eaving the coach door for one moment. The 
Faubourg, which we feared so much, was perfecdy 
peaceful. All the inhabitants, workers and others, 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

had been to Versailles to fetch the Royal Family, 
and the fatigue of the journey kept them all asleep. 

The man sitting opposite me in the diligence 
was extremely dirty and stank like the pest. He 
calmly related to me how he had stolen some 
watches and other property. Happily he saw 
nothing on me to tempt him. I was taking very 
little linen with me and only eighty louis for the 
journey. I had left my belongings and jewels in 
Paris, while the fruit of my labours remainec 
in the hands of my husband, who spent every- 
thing, as I have already related.^ 

The thief was not satisfied with telling us about 
his high deeds. He incessantly talked of hangin| 
people from lamp-posts, naming a host of person; 
of my acquaintance. My daughter thought the 
man very wicked. He frightened her so much 
that I took courage from the occasion to say tc 
him : " I beg you. Sir, not to speak of murdei 
before this child." He held his tongue and endec 
up by playing a game of bataille with my daughter 

On the same seat with me was a violent Jacobir 
from Grenoble. He was about fifty years old 
ugly and bilious-looking. Every time we stoppec 
at an inn for dinner or supper he started spouting 
his ideas in the most terrifying fashion. At al 
the towns a crowd of people stopped the diligence 
in order to hear the news from Paris. Ou 
Jacobin would then cry out : " Be at rest, m' 

• I maintained myself abroad by painting portraits. Far from sendin 
me any money, M. Le Brun wrote me such pitiful letters about his distres 
that I sent him a thousand ecus on one occasion and a hundred louis oi 
another. I also sent the same sum to my mother later on. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

children. We've got the baker and his wife in 
Paris. We'll make a Constitution for them. 
They'll be obliged to accept it, and that will be 
the end of the story." The simpletons, whose 
heads were being turned in this fashion, believed 
the man like an oracle. All this made my journey 
very sad. I no longer had any fear for myself ; 
I was anxious about my mother, brother, friends, 
everybody. I shuddered at the thought of their 
Majesties' fate, for all along the route, almost as 
far as Lyons, horsemen kept coming up to the 
diligence to tell us that the King and Queen had 
been massacred and Paris set on fire. My poor 
little daughter was trembling all over, thinking she 
saw her father and our house being burnt. I no 
sooner succeeded in quietening her than another 
horseman would dash up and repeat the same 
horrible story. 

At last I arrived at Lyons. I drove to the house 
of M. Artaut, a merchant, whom I had sometimes 
received at my house in Paris together with his 
wife. I knew neither of them but slightly. They 
had inspired me with confidence, since we shared 
the same opinions concerning all that was hap- 
pening. My first care was to ask them whether 
it was true that the King and Queen had been 
jnassacred. Thank Heaven, I was reassured for 
pat once. 

j M. and Mme Artaut had some difficulty in 
i-ecognizing me at first, not only because I had 
altered to such an extent, but also because I was 
jvearing the costume of a badly dressed work- 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

woman with a large kerchief falling over my 
eyes. I had had occasion during my journey to 
congratulate myself for having taken this pre- 
caution. I had just exhibited at the Salon a 
portrait of myself with my daughter in my arms. 
The Jacobin from Grenoble spoke about the 
exhibition and even praised the portrait. I 
shuddered lest he should recognize me. I used 
all my cunning to hide my face from him. Thanks 
to that and my costume, I came through with 
nothing worse than a little fear. 

I spent three days at Lyons with the Artaut 
family. I gready needed the rest. Apart from 
my hosts, I saw no one in the town, being anxious 
to keep the strictest incognito. M. Artaut engaged 
a coachman for me, telling him I was a relation 
of his. He strongly commended me to this good 
man, who indeed showed every possible care to 
me and my daughter. 

I am at a loss to tell you what I felt as I crossed 
the bridge at Beauvoisin. There at last, I began 
to breathe. I was outside of France, that France 
which was my country notwithstanding, and which 
I blamed myself for leaving with joy. The sight 
of the mountains, however, distracted me from 
all my thoughts. I had never seen high mountains 
before. Those of Savoy seemed to me to touch 
the sky, mingling with them in a dense mist. 
My first feeling was one of fear, but I insensibly 
grew accustomed to the sight and ended by ad- 
miring them. 

The landscape about the road of the Echelles 



By Madame he Brun. 

To face p. 138. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

enchanted me. I fancied I was looking at the 
Gallery of the Titans. I have always called it 
thus ever since. Wishing to enjoy all these 
beautiful scenes more thoroughly, I got out of 
the carriage. About half-way along the road, 
however, I was seized with a great terror. A 
part of the rocks was being worked with gun- 
powder, and the effect of this was like thousands 
of cannon-shots. Echoing from rock to rock, the 
noise was infernal. 

I went up Mount Cenis at the same time as 
several strangers. A postilion came up to me 
and said : " Madame should take a mule, as it 
is too fatiguing for a lady like you to go on foot." 
[ replied that I was a workwoman quite accus- 
tomed to walking. " Ah ! " he laughingly re- 
oined, " Madame is no workwoman. It is known 
who you are." — " Well, who am I ? " I asked. — 
* You are Madame Le Brun, who paints so per- 
"ectly. We are all very glad to know you are 
ar away from the evil-doers." I have never been 
ible to make out how this man knew my name, 
t proved to me, however, what a lot of emissaries 
the Jacobins must have had. Happily I was no 
longer in fear of them. I was beyond their 
loathsome power. Instead of my native country, 
I was going to dwell in places where the arts 
flourished and civilized manners prevailed. I was 
going to visit Rome, Naples, Berlin, Vienna, 
Petersburg, and above all, though I did not know 
at the time, I was going to find you, dear friend, 
know you, and love you. 



The Abb^ Delille. 

JAQUES DELILLE was nothing but a child 
all his life, the most lovable, best and wittiest 
child imaginable. He was nicknamed Chose 
Legere, which has always struck me as being most 
appropriate. No man, indeed, ever skimmed life 
so lightly as he, making no strong attachment to 
anything whatever in the world. Enjoying the 
present without thinking of what was to follow, 
he rarely troubled his mind with a deep thought. 
It was extremely easy for anyone desirous of 
gaining a hold over him to win his affections 
and lead him. His marriage is sufficient proof 
of that. How often he complained of the yoke 
he was wearing when there was still time to 
cast it off ! At last a friend persuaded him to 
take his freedom and offered him a shelter. 
Delille accepted the offer. Delighted and full of 
resolve, he only asked for an hour in which to 
go and get some belongings. Evening came and 
the friend waited in vain for Delille to appear. So 
he went to find him. " Well ? " he said.—" Well," 
replied Delille, " I am going to marry her, my 
friend. I hope you will consent to act as witness." 
Count de Choiseul-Gouffier, an intimate friend 
of his, who was about to leave for Greece, had 







Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

often spoken to him of his desire to take him as 
a companion on the journey. Nothing, however, 
was agreed upon. On the day of his departure 
the Count went to the Abbe and said to him : 
'* I am leaving this instant. Come with me. The 
|:arriage is ready." And the Abbe got into the car- 
iriage without making the least preparation, though 
IVI. de Choiseul had, in fact, provided for that. 

Arrived at Marseilles, Delille went for a walk 
^long the shore and gazed at the sea. A deep 
melancholy came over him. He said : " I shall 
never be able to put that immensity between my 
friends and me. No, I will not go any farther." 
So he slipped secretly away from M. de Choiseul 
and hid himself in a litde tavern, where he thought 
himself safe from discovery. After much searching, 
tiowever, he was tracked down by M. de Choiseul, 
ivho took him on board with him. 

Though far from his friends, he never forgot 

i;hem and often sent them news of himself. He 

Svrote to me from Athens several times. In one 

f his letters he told me he had written my name 

n the Temple of Minerva. I remembered this 

hen I was at Naples, and wrote to him that 

ith much more reason I had written his name 

n the tomb of Virgil. I shall always regret 

having lost the Abbe's letters, as well as those 

t^hich I received from M. de Vaudreuil during 
is travels in Spain with Count d'Artois, which 
were full of interesting details on that country. 
[ entrusted them to my brother when I left France, 
md when the searching of houses became the 


Memoirs of Madame Elisaheth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

order of the day, he judged it prudent to burn 
the correspondence. 

The Abbe Delille spent his life in high society, 
where he was a very brilliant ornament. Not 
only did he recite his verses in a delightful manner, 
but his fine wit and natural mirth rendered his 
conversation most charming. He was matchless 
as a story-teller, delighting every group with 
scores of tales and anecdotes with never a drop 
of gall or satire. Hence it may be said that 
everybody liked him, just as he may be said to 
have liked everybody. The latter merit, if indeed 
it is one, was due, I think, to that weakness of 
his character which I have already referred to. 
He knew no more how to hate than to resist, 
and in the ordinary things of life his easy-going 
manner was truly rare. For instance, he may 
have promised to dine with you. At the moment 
of setting out for your house, if another person 
came to get him he would go off with him, 
leaving you to wait in vain. I remember one 
day reproaching him with having failed to keep 
his promise in this way. He proved to us that he 
had a ready answer for everything. " I take it," 
he said, " that the person who comes to fetch m( 
is much more urgent than the person who waits.' 

He had traits of good-nature that reminded one 
very much of La Fontaine. One evening, when he 
came to supper at my house, I said to him : " M 
I'Abbe, it is very late. You live so far away tha 
I feel uneasy at seeing you go home at this hour 
driving your cabriolet." — He answered : " I alwayj 


After Miger. 

To face p. 142. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

take the precaution of carrying a night-cap in my 
pocket." I suggested making a bed for him in 
my salon. " No, no ! " he said. " I have a friend 
in your street where I often go for a lodging. It 
doesn't put him out in the least, and I can go 
there at any time." Which he did at once. 

No one enjoyed life or skimmed its charm as 
much as he. Always ready to laugh and be 
amused, he had a sort of happiness like that of a 
child. The same man, however, displayed the 
utmost energy during the whole time of the 
Revolution. Everybody knows how courageously 
he rebuffed Chaumette, the Attorney of the Com- 
mune, who commanded him in 1793 to write 
an ode to the Goddess of Reason. Delille was 
quite aware that his refusal meant sentence of 
death, and it was then he wrote his beautiful verses 
on the immortality of the soul. He read them to 
] Chaumette till he came to the following lines : 

Oui, vous qui, de I'Olympe usurpant le tonnerre, 
Des eternelles lois renversez les autels ; 

Laches oppresseurs de la terre, 

Tremblez, vous etes immortels ! ^ 

He stopped, looked at the Tribune, and repeated 
in a strong, assured voice : " Vous aussi, tremblez 
vous etes immortel." Though much taken aback, 
Chaumette stammered a few threats. " I am quite 
ready," replied Delille. " I have just read my 
will." For this once the good man's courage led 
to a happy result, for Chaumette left him in 

I " Yes, you, who usurp the thunders of Olympus and overturn the altars 
of the eternal laws, base oppressors of earth, tremble, you are immortal ! " 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

order to go and tell his friends that it was not 
yet time to put Delille to death. After which 
he never ceased to give Delille his protection. 
Nevertheless the poet thought it prudent to go 
abroad. He crossed to England, where he was 
received and made much of by all the notabilities. 
His Muse always kept his fire sacred to his 
lawful sovereigns. During the reign of the world- 
shaking usurper, he published his poem " La 
Pitid," and on his return to France, had the 
courage, perhaps still more rare, to resist the false 
caresses of an absolute power. He did not fear 
to lay himself open to disgrace in order to preserve 
his own esteem, the esteem of his friends and 
the general admiration, which he enjoyed till the 
day of his death. 

Count de Vaudreuil. 
Born to high rank. Count de Vaudreuil owed 
much more to Nature than to his position, though 
the latter overwhelmed him with all its gifts. To 
the advantages of a high position in the world, 
he united all the qualities that make a man 
agreeable. He was big, well-made and carried 
himself with remarkable elegance and nobility. 
His look was gentle and fine, his features extremely 
mobile like his ideas, while his smile was pre- 
possessing from the start. He had plenty of wit 
but one was tempted to believe that he did no 
open his mouth except to get the best out o: 
yours, for he listened to you in so friendly anc 
courteous a manner. Whether the conversatior 

emoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

IS serious or joking, he knew how to adopt any 

ne, any nuance, for he was as well-informed as 

was gay. He was an excellent story-teller, 

d I know verses by him which might be quoted 

th honour by the most hard to please. These 

rses, however, were never read except by his 

ends. He was all the less anxious to have 

m published because he employed in several 

spirit and form of the epigram. In order to 

this, his pure and noble soul must have been 

rred to revolt by a bad deed, and one may 

y say that if he showed small pity for what 

s evil, he gloried mightily in all that was good. 

)body outdid him in warmth of service to 

)se who enjoyed his esteem. If his friends were 

icked, he defended them with so much energy 

t cold folk accused him of exaggeration. " You 

st judge me in that way," he said to an egotist 

3ur acquaintance, " for I respond to everything 

>d, while you respond to nothing." 

The society he preferred was that of artists and 

foremost men of letters. He had many friends 

bng them, whom he always kept, even though 

ir political opinions were not the same as his. 

Je was passionately fond of all the arts, while 

\ knowledge of painting was remarkable. As 

fortune allowed him to satisfy very expensive 

is, he collected a gallery of masterpieces of 

l|ous schools. His salon was adorned with 

lable furniture and ornaments of excellent 

He frequendy gave magnificent parties, 

were so fairylike that he was called the 

K 145 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he 5; 

magician. His greatest joy, however, was to bri 
relief to the unfortunate. Hence the great numl 
of thankless people he made ! 

The only contradiction to be found in t 
wholesome and upright spirit was that M. 
Vaudreuil very often complained of living at 
Court, whereas it was obvious to all his friei 
that he would not have been able to live elsewhc 
Nevertheless I think I can explain the cause 
this oddness. The fine quality of his soul mj 
him a child of Nature, which he loved and coi 
enjoy but too rarely. His rank kept him i 
often away from the society to which he gravita' 
by reason of his solid understanding and affect 
for the arts. On the other hand, he was 
doubt pleased to occupy so distinguished a posit 
at the Court, which he owed to the personal me 
of his sincere and loyal character. Moreover,! 
adored his Prince, the Count d'Artois, whom! 
never flattered and never forsook in his rr 
fortune. Such a friendship rarely grows 
between two men, when one is born near 
the Throne. Their friendship, indeed, was muti 
In 1 8 14, M. de Vaudreuil happened to fall i 
a dispute with the Count d'Artois, and on 
account he wrote him a long letter saying 1: 
cruel it seemed to him to disagree after thi 
years of friendship. The Prince answered 
in two lines : " Hold your tongue, old fool, 
have lost your memory, for it is forty years 
I have been your best friend." 

During the emigration, at an advanced age, 

vLemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

named a young and pretty cousin of his in 
ingland. He had two sons and was as good a 
msband as father. Years of misfortune, including 
he loss of his fortune, which was not restored to 
im by the Restoration, never succeeded in crush- 
ig him. He kept the same heart and spirit till 
is last breath. 

At the Restoration he was appointed Governor 
f the Louvre. So it will be noted that he 
nded his days near the place enclosing the 
lasterpieces he had so much admired during his 
fe. His gentle soul felt the need of lifting its 
Sections above this earth, and accordingly he 
ecame very devout, though without any sancti- 
loniousness. These sentiments assuaged his end, 
id he died surrounded by his friends, in the 
ims of his beloved Prince, who never left him. 
[The following verses addressed to M. de Vau- 
[euil by the poet Lebrun justify what I have 



A M. Le Comte De Vaudreuil. 

Jne Grace, une Muse, en effet, m'a remis 
es jolis vers dictes par le dieu du Parnasse 
Au plus celeste des amis, 
Mecene — Vaudreuil, qui chante comme Horace, 
Lh quoi ! I'ennui des courts n'a done rien qui vous 
^uoi ! votre luth brilliant n'est jamais detendu ? 
l^ous puisez dans votre ame un art divin de plaire, 
t vous joignez toujours le bien dire au bien faire. 
BLorace avec plaisir chez vous s'etait perdu ; 
/ous en avez si bien I'esprit et le langage, 
Que par un charmant badinage 
Vous me I'avez deux fois rendu. 


glace ? 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Br\ 

Countess de Sabran 
(Afterwards Marquise de Boufflers), 

I made her acquaintance a few years befo 
the Revolution. She was then very good-lookin 
her blue eyes expressing her refinement and goo( 
ness. She was fond of the arts and literatur 
wrote very fine verses, and was a wonderful stor" 
teller. All this without showing the least pr 
tentiousness. Her naive and merry spirit had i 
attractive simplicity which led to her being mu( 
loved and courted, though she made no attem 
to pride herself on her numerous successes : 
society. As for the qualities of her heart, it 
enough to say that her great affection for h 
son did not prevent her from having many friend 
to whom she always remained devoted and faithfi 

Mme de Sabran was one of the women I sa 
most, visited and received at my house with t 
utmost pleasure. In her company one was nev 
bored. I was therefore delighted to find her 
Prussia during the emigration. She was thi 
staying at Reinsberg in the house of Prince Henr 
as was also the Chevalier de Boufflers, whom s' 
afterwards married. In the last years of her li: 
when she returned to France she became blir 
Her son never left her side. His arm was, so ' 
speak, attached to that of his mother. His ta 
was truly enviable, for in spite of her ailmer 
and age, Mme de Boufflers was always good ai 
kind and kept the charm that pleases and attrac 
everybody. I remember how, towards the end 

By Madame Le Brun. 

To face p. 149. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

per life, after being operated on for cataract by 

Forlense, the famous oculist, she was obliged to 

live in darkness. When I went to see her one 

Evening, I found her all alone in the dark. I 

fhought I would only stay for a moment, but 

:he ever-reviving charm of her witty conversation, 

;o full of anecdotes related as none but she was 

ible, kept me more than three hours by her side. 

Jstening to her, I thought that, seeing nothing 

ind receiving no stimulus from outside objects, 

^he was reading within herself, if I may say so, 

and that sort of magic lantern of things and ideas 

which she described to me with so much beauty 

held me to the spot. I left her with regret, for 

had never found her more lovable. 

Mme de Boufflers left two children. Her son, 

ount de Sabran, is well known not only for 

lis subde wit but also on account of the charming 

ables he recites so perfecdy. Her daughter, Mme 

ie Custine, was known to me in the days of her 

j^outh, when she was like Spring itself. She was 

passionately fond of paindng and copied the great 

nasters to perfection. So well did she imitate 

heir colouring and vigour that, on going into 

ler study one day, I mistook her copy for the 

original. She did not hide from me the pleasure 

he derived from my mistake, for she was just as 

latural as she was nice and beautiful. 

The Poet Lebrun. 
I do not believe I admired any living poet so 
nuch as Lebrun, who had assumed the name of 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise VigSe-Le Brui 

Pindare. The lofty character of his poetry fiUec 
me with so great an enthusiasm that I conceivec 
a real friendship for the poet. Though his conceii 
was amazing, I found him so natural that it nevei 
crossed my mind for a moment to find anything 
ridiculous in it. Thus, when Lebrun finished the 
ode entitled Exegi Monumentum, he read it out tc 
us. It included the following verses : 

Comme un cedre aux vastes ombrages 

Mon nom, croissant avec les Sges, 

Regne sur la posterite. 

Siecles, vous etes ma conquete ; 

Et la palme, qui ceint ma tete 

Rayonne d'immortalite.^ 

Nobody, however, found anything to say abou 
it except : " Wonderful ! How true ! " 

Lebrun frequently came to my house. I neve 
arranged a little gathering without inviting hin 
among the first. My admiration for his talen 
made me so fond of him that I could not suffe 
to hear any evil about him. Once I was enter 
taining some people to dinner, when I heard h 
morals being attacked in the gravest fashion. 

Among other things, it was said that he hac 
sold his wife to the Prince de Conti. Naturall 
I refused to believe a word of the story. I wa 
furious. *' Haven't I also been slandered ? " 
said in my anger. " Look at all the absurd thino 
that are said about me concerning M. de Calonne 
What you say is not a bit more true, I am sure. 

^ " Like a cedar with a vast shade, my name, growing with the ages, reigr 
over posterity. Ages, I am your conqueror ; and the palm that wreathe 
my brow, beams with immortality." 




After Beauminil. 

To face p. 151. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

However, finding I was unable to convince his 
accusers, I got up and left the table to shed tears 
in my bedroom. Doyen arrived and found me 
weeping. '' Ho ! what is the matter, my child ? " 
he asked. — " I couldn't put up with those men," 
I replied. " They are calumniating Lebrun in a 
(horrible way." I told him what had been said. 
(He smiled. " I don't assume that it is all true," 
jhe said. " But you are too young, my dear 
ifriend, to realize that most geniuses have every- 
thing at their country house and nothing at their 
town house ; in other words, everything in the 
lead and nothing in the heart." 

Later on I often recalled this saying of Doyen's. 

When I made Lebrun's acquaintance, he was 

very poor and always miserably dressed. M. de 

V^audreuil was not long in appreciating his fine 

alent, and secretly sent him a large coffer filled 

vith clothes and linen. I do not know whether 

he poet discovered the author of this anonymous 

2;ift. But it is a fact that when the Revolution 

ame he did not vociferate against M, de Vaudreuil 

much as he did against many others. It is 

rue that M. de Vaudreuil neglected no occasion 

o make him known and to spread his reputation. 

ebrun had not yet had anything printed when 

he Count was delighted with the ode on Courtisans 

nd spoke about it to the Queen, who expressed 

desire to hear it. M. de Vaudreuil made haste 
get the ode and read it to Her Majesty. When 
le had finished, the Queen said to him : " Do 
ou know that he is taking away our wrapping ? " 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brui 

M. de Vaudreuil told me of this true remark 
It struck me much more than it struck him, fo: 
he refused to see in the poem anything bu 
poetized philosophy, whereas Lebrun and his lik( 
were preaching with a view to the future. Th( 
proof of this is found in the Revolution wher 
Pindare became atrocious. His strophes on th( 
death of the King and Queen are infernal. T( 
the shame of his memory, I would like to hav< 
them printed opposite the quatrain he composec 
on the day the King granted him a pension, anc 
which ended thus : 

Larmes qui n'avait pu m'arracher le malheur, 
Coulez pour la reconnaissance.^ 

Far from that, however, kind M. Despres ha 
suppressed all the horrors in the new collectior 
of Lebrun's poems, hoping, no doubt, to confin< 
them to oblivion for ever. For my part, I prefei 
that justice should be done whatever the man'i 
talent may have been. 

When I returned to France, Lebrun was stil 
alive. Neither of us, however, had any desire t( 
see each other again. 


Of all the men of letters who came to my hous 
there was one I always detested, as if by inspiratioi 
of the future. That was Chamfort. I receivec 
him, nevertheless, very often, out of deferenc' 
for several of my friends, especially M. de Vaudreuil 

* " Tears, which misfortune could not draw from me, flow with gratitude. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

whose heart he had gained in his misery. His 
conversation was very witty, though tart, full of 
gall, and without any charm for me. Moreover, 
I greatly disliked his synicism and dirtiness. His 
real name was Nicolas. He changed it, however, 
on the advice of M. de Vaudreuil, who wished to 
push him forward in the world and, if possible, 
even at Court. M. de Vaudreuil accommodated 
him in great style at his house and, being almost 
always absent at Versailles, had a table served 
for Chamfort and the people he cared to invite. 
He treated the man like a brother. Yet this 
man, on being reproached later on by his friends, 
the revolutionaries, with having lived in the house 
of 2, jormer nobleman^ cowardly answered : " What 
does it matter ? I was Plato at the Court of the 
tyrant Denys." Now, I ask what sort of tyrant 
was M. de Vaudreuil ! And what sort of Plato 
was Chamfort ! 

His intimate connections with Mirabeau, and, 
above all, his envy of the great, which had long 
been gnawing at his heart, were not slow to make 
Chamfort a demoniacal partisan of the Revolution. 
Forgetting, or rather recalling, that he had been 
secretary of the establishments of the Prince de 
Cond^ and the Princess Elisabeth, both of whom 
had overwhelmed him with favours, he revealed 
himself as one of the most ardent enemies of the 
throne and nobility. In spite of the proverb 
that wolves do not devour one another, Chamfort 
was put into prison by the very people he had 
served so well with his voice and pen, and after 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

being arrested a second time he cut his throat 
with a razor. 

The Marquise de Grollier. 

Mme de Grollier, though not very fond of 
society, was well known in high life, which she 
adorned with her superior mind. Her education 
was far beyond what was usually given to women. 
She knew Latin and Greek and was thoroughly 
conversant with the classic masters ; but in a 
salon she concealed her learning and showed only 
her wit. A middling person is apt to show off 
any slight instruction. Mme de Grollier, how- 
ever, was always simple and natural, manifesting 
no pretence or pedantry. 

In the early days of my marriage, I went about 
in the world very little, preferring the small 
gatherings of the Marquise de Grollier to crowded 
assemblies. I often passed the whole evening 
with her alone, much to my satisfaction. Her 
conversation was always lively and full of ideas 
and sallies. Nevertheless, there was never a word 
of evil-speaking in all the witty sayings that 
constantly poured from her lips. This is all the 
more remarkable because this very superior woman 
owed her perfect knowledge of the world to her 
tact and subde mind, and also because she was 
somewhat misanthropic. This was often proved to 
me by the things she said. 

For instance, she had a dog which became the 
joy of her life when she grew blind and deaf. I, 
too, had a dog of which I was very fond. One 


By Madame Le Brun. 

To face p. 154. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

day when we were talking about the devotion 
and fidelity of our two little animals, I said : "I 
wish dogs could speak. They would tell us such 
lovely things ! " — " My dear," she replied, *' if 
they could speak, they would hear, and that 
would soon spoil them." 

Mme de Grollier painted flowers with great 
superiority. Far from being what is called the 
talent of an amateur, her talent was such that 
many of her pictures could be placed beside those 
of Van Spaendonck, whose pupil she was. She 
was a wonderful talker on painting, as she was on 
all subjects, for I never left her salon without 
having learnt something interesting or instructive. 
I never left her without regret, and I had grown 
so accustomed to visiting her that my coachman 
drove me there without my saying a word to 
him, which she often pointed out to me in a very 
pleasant way. 

Just as pictures require shades, so several persons 
have reproached Mme de Grollier with exaggera- 
tion in her sentiments and opinions. Certainly, 
she was rather high-flown in everything. But 
the result was so much greatness of heart and 
nobility of soul that she owed to her temperament 
many true friends, who remained faithful to her till 
her last day. Moreover, no one had so much charm 
of manner as Mme de Grollier, or the perfect tone 
which is unknown nowadays and seems to have 
died with her. For she is dead, alas ! and that 
thought is one of the saddest of my life. She died 
in full possession of the lofty faculties of her mind. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

I was told that shortly before she expired she 
sat up and raising her eyes to heaven, her white 
hair dishevelled, she breathed a prayer to God 
that brought tears to the eyes of all who heard 
her, at the same time filling them with admiration. 
She prayed for herself, her country, and for the 
Restoration which she believed should bring hap- 
piness to France. She spoke a long while, as did 
Homer and Bossuet, and then breathed her last. 

Madame de Genlis. 

I made the acquaintance of Mme de Genlis 
before the Revolution. She came to see me, 
presented me to the young Princes of Orleans, 
whom she was educating, and a little later brought 
me Pamela, whom I thought as beautiful as it is 
possible to be. Mme de Genlis was very proud 
of that young person, and endeavoured to bring 
out all her charms. I remember she used to 
make her strike various attitudes, raise her eyes 
to heaven, give various expressions to her beautiful 
face. Though all this was very nice to look at, 
I thought that so deep a study of coquetry 
might be too much of a good thing for the pupil. 

Mme de Genlis' conversation always seemed to 
me better than her literary works, though some 
of them are charming, especially Mademoiselle de 
Clermont^ which I consider to be her masterpiece. 
Her conversation, however, had a certain sprightli- 
ness and on several points a certain frankness that 
is absent in her works. 

She was a delightful story-teller and had a 



By Le Maine. 

To face p. 156. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

great store of tales ; I think nobody at Court or 
in town had seen so many people and things as 
she had done. There was a charm in her simplest 
remarks that can hardly be described. Her expres- 
sions were so attractive and her choice of words 
so tasteful that one felt inclined to write down all 
she said. 

On my return from my travels she came to 
see me one morning. As she had forewarned 
me of her visit, I informed several of my acquaint- 
ances, some of whom did not like Mme de Genlis 
at all. She had scarcely started to converse, when 
friends and foes alike were delighted, and listened, 
as though enchanted, to her brilliant conversation 
for more than half an hour. 

Mme de Genlis could never have been exactly 
good-looking. She was tall and well-made, and 
had well-defined features with a very fine look 
and smile. I think it would have been difficult for 
her face to express good-nature ; but it assumed 
every other expression with an amazing mobility. 

Madame de Verdun. 
Though not a celebrity like the woman I have 
just spoken of, Mme de Verdun may be remem- 
bered for her very fine and natural disposition. 
Her good nature and mirth made her a general 
favourite, and I may regard it as one of the joys 
of my life that she should have been my first, 
and still remains my best, friend. Her husband 
was Fermier-General. He was outwardly a cold 
man, but full of wit and good nature, and was 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

unable to see unfortunate people without hastening 
to help them. He owned the Chateau de Colombes 
near Paris. 

This chateau was inhabited once upon a time 
by Queen Henrietta of England. The walls of 
the salons and galleries were almost all painted 
by Simon Vouet. The damp, however, had tar- 
nished his remarkable paintings, and M. de Verdun, 
who was a great art-lover and connoisseur, under- 
took to renovate them with complete success. 

I very often went to stay at the chateau for 
several days. M. and Mme de Verdun used to 
entertain the most agreeable society, composed of 
artists, men of letters and people of wit. Car- 
montelle, who was an intimate friend of our hosts, 
was a great resource. He made us act his proverbs. 
Moreover, the conversation in general was so 
lively that we were never overtaken by boredom. 

It would be useless nowadays to try to find the 
delight that came from the charming conversation 
of those days. 

The Abbe Delille wrote to me at Rome : 
** Politics has ruined everything ; no one con- 
verses any more in Paris." On my return to 
France I realized the truth of these words only 
too well. Go into any salon you like, you will 
find there the women yawning in a circle and 
the men up in a corner quarrelling over some 
law or other. We have seen the last, among a 
good many other things, of what used to be called 
conversation ; that is to say, one of the greatest 
charms of French society. 



After the painting by Madame he Brim, 

To face p. 158. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

The Revolution put an end to all the pleasures 
of Colombes. As M. de Verdun was known to 
be very rich, it was not long before he was put 
into prison. One can imagine the despair of his 
doring wife. It must be said for the honour of 
mankind, that as soon as the news of his arrest 
reached Colombes the peasants assembled and 
went to Paris to beg with tears in their eyes for 
the release of their benefactor. 

The result of this action was to prevent the 
authorities from daring to put him to death. Never- 
theless he was still a prisoner, when the good folk 
came a second time and renewed their request with 
so much earnest that they secured his release at last. 
When Mme de Verdun heard the news, she was so 
overjoyed that she lost her head and sent two 
carriages to fetch her husband from prison, thinking 
that two would get there quicker than one. 

Robert, the landscape painter, excelled in paint- 
ing ruins. His pictures in this genre are fit to 
be placed next to those of Jean Paul Panini. It 
was very fashionable and grand to have one's 
salon painted by Robert. Hence the number of 
pictures by him is amazing. Certainly, they are 
far from being all of the same degree of beauty. 
Robert possessed that happy facility which may 
be called fatal. He painted a picture as fast as 
he wrote a letter. But when he controlled his 
facility, his works were often perfect. Some of 
his pictures go very well beside those of Vernet. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Of all the artists I knew, Robert went about 
most in society, where, moreover, he was very 
much liked. 

Fond of all the pleasures, not excepting that of 
eating, he was much in demand. I do not believe 
he dined at home more than three times a year. 
Plays, balls, dinners, concerts, country parties or 
any other pleasure, were never refused by him, 
for he spent in amusement all the time he was 
not working. 

He was natural, well-educated and free from 
pedantry, while the inexhaustible brightness of 
his disposition made him one of the pleasantest 
men in society. He was always famous for his 
skill in physical exercises, and at an advanced 
age still retained the preferences of his youth. 
At the age of sixty and more, though very fat, he 
remained so agile that he ran better than anyone 
else in a game of hide-and-seek. He played 
tennis and ball, and made us weep with laughter 
at the schoolboy tricks he performed to amuse 
us. For instance, at Colombes he once chalked 
a long line on the drawing-room floor and dressed 
like a mountebank, with a balancing pole in his 
hands, walked solemnly or ran up and down the 
line, imitating so well the attitudes and gestures 
of a tight-rope dancer that the illusion was perfect. 
Nothing so funny was ever seen. While studying 
at the Academy of Rome he could not have 
been more than twenty years old when he wagered 
six pads of grey paper with his fellows that he 
would climb alone to the top of the Coliseum. 

mioirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

le venturesome youth reached the ridge indeed, 

Dugh risking his life a score of times. When 

attempted to descend, however, he was unable 

use the jutting stones which had helped him 

his ascent. It was found necessary to throw 

rope to him from a window. He caught hold 

t, bound it round his body, and sprang into 
,ce. Happily, his rescuers succeeded in getting 
into the interior of the monument. The 
re account of this stunt makes one's hair stand 

end. Robert is the only man who has ever 
ed attempt it. And just for six pads of grey 
)er ! 

t was also he who got lost in the catacombs 
Rome, and who was celebrated by the Abbe 
ille in his poem " L'Imagination." Mme de 
pllier, like ourselves, was aware of the adven- 
b in the catacombs, and after hearing the 
fees of the Abbe Delille, said : *' The Abbe 
lille has given me more pleasure, but Robert 
€ me more fright." 

he happiness which accompanied Robert 
)ughout his whole life seems to have been 
ii him even at his death. The good, merry 

t did not foresee his end nor suffer the 
uish of an agony. He was feeling very well 

dressed ready to go out to dine. Mme Robert 

just finished dressing, when she went to her 
band's atelier to tell him she was ready, and 
overed him dead, having had a lightning 
Dlectic stroke. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bt 

The Duchess de Polignac. 

There is no slander, no horror which has r 
been invented by hate and envy against l 
Duchess de Polignac. So many libels have be 
written to damn her, that, together with t 
vociferations of the revolutionaries, they mi 
have left in the minds of some credulous peoj 
the idea that the friend of Marie-Antoinette v 
a monster. I knew that monster : she was t 
finest, sweetest and loveliest woman one coi 
wish to see. 

A few years before the Revolution, the Duch 
de Polignac came to see me. I painted her portr 
several times as well as that of her daughter, t 
Duchess de Guiche. Mme de Polignac lool^ 
so young that she might have been taken 
her daughter's sister. Both were the best-looki 
women of the Court. Mme de Guiche woi 
have made a perfect model for one of the Grac 
As for her mother, I will not attempt to descr 
her appearance. It was heavenly. 

The Duchess de Polignac had besides her i 
lightful beauty an angelic sweetness and a m 
attractive, solid sense. All who were intimat 
acquainted with her have no difficulty in realiz 
why the Queen chose her for a friend, for she \ 
indeed the Queen's friend. To this fact she ovs 
her position as governess to the royal childr 
Her appointment immediately drew upon her 
ceaseless rage of all the women who coveted 
post. Hundreds of atrocious calumnies were fi: 


By Voiriot. 

To face p. 163. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 


)fF against her. I often heard people of the 

Z!ourt talking against her, and I confess that I 

^^as revolted by such dark and persistent wickedness. 

What no courtier could believe, though it was 

e pure truth, was that Mme de Polignac had 

^ot coveted the post she occupied. It is possible 

ker family were very glad to see her advanced to 

Jie dignity, but she herself had only yielded out 

\i respect for the Queen's desire and at the constant 

in treaties of the King. All that she longed to 

lave was her liberty. In fact, life at Court was 

[uite unsuited to her. Being indolent and lazy, 

le would have found delight in rest, whereas 

he duties of her post seemed to her like a heavy 

)urden. Once when I was painting her profile 

t Versailles, hardly five minutes went by without 

ur door being opened and people inquiring 

Dout her orders and scores of things concerning 

be children. " Well ! " she said to me at last, 

i^ith a look of utter boredom, " every morning 

is the same questions. I never have a moment 

D myself till dinner-time, while other fatigues 

wait me in the evening." 

At the Chateau de la Muette, where she spent 
le summer, she was able to enjoy a little more 
reedom. The royal children were very happy 
lere, and she used to give small informal balls, 
hich were very amusing. It was there that she 
ave birth to Count Melchior de Polignac, at 
le same time her daughter gave birth to the 
resent Duke de Guiche. 

Shortly before the Revolution she begged the 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brm 

King to accept her resignation, which he refusec 
to do. Being obliged, however, to take care oj 
her health, she obtained permission to take th< 
baths at a famous watering-place in England 
She set out with the firm intention of giving uj 
her post on her return ; but I know for certair 
that the King, fearing lest her resignation mighl 
grieve the Queen, went down on his knees tc 
beg her to remain the governess of the royal 
children. It is easy to realize how the manifesta- 
tion of favour so dazzling and abiding arousec 
the fury of the envious. Hatred of the favourite 
grew yet stronger. It vastly helped the approach- 
ing Revolution, which was soon to strike bott 
the Polignacs and their enemies. 

The Prince de Ligne. 

I made the acquaintance of the Prince de Lign< 
at Brussels. When he came to France shortb 
before the Revolution, we renewed our acquaintanc< 
with so much pleasure that he spent a good numbe 
of his evenings at my house. When he, the Abb' 
Delille, the Marquis de Chastellux, Count d^ 
Vaudreuil, Vicomte de Segur, and several other 
of those days, were gathered together round m^ 
fire, the conversation was so lively and interesting 
that we found it very hard to break up the party 

Mme de Stael referred to the Prince de Ligne ii 
the following manner : " He is perhaps the on! 
foreigner who ever became a model of the Frend 
manner instead of being an imitator ! " Elsewher 
she said : " The Prince de Ligne saw men, thing 


After A. Bartsch (1789). 

To face p; 165. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

and events pass before his eyes. He judged them 
without trying to impose upon them the tyranny of a 
system. He knew how to put sense into everything !" 

The sense of which Mme de Stael was so good 
a judge, having so much herself, was one of the 
chief charms of the Prince de Ligne. His brilliant 
imagination, subtle comments on all subjects, and 
witty remarks, which were constantly running all 
over Europe, were never able to rouse in the 
^rince de Ligne any desire to be listened to. His 
speech and manners remained so unaffected that 
a fool might have taken him for an ordinary man. 

He was tall and had a very noble bearing, 
without staidness or affectation. The charm of 
his mind was so well expressed in his face that I 
have known few men whose first appearance was 
BO prepossessing, while his good nature soon cap- 
tured your affection. He was both a brave and 
earned soldier. His profound knowledge of war- 
are has been appreciated throughout Europe, 
i^vhile the love of glory had always held its sway 
Dver him. On the other hand, his indifference to 
noney was excessive. Not only did his extreme 
generosity involve him in enormous expenses, 
A^hich he always refused to reckon up, but when 

saw him again in Vienna in 1792 he came to 
he house of Mme de Rombech one evening in 
^rder to tell us that the French had taken possession 
)f all his property in Flanders, and he seemed to 
ake the news very little to heart. *' I have only 
wo louis left," he added with a detached look. 
' Who is going to pay my debts ? " 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

The only loss that affected him deeply was 
that of his son Charles. This brave young man 
died gloriously at the battle of Boux, in Champagne. 
The blow which struck him, struck the Prince de 
Ligne as well. It deprived him for ever of his 
gaiety and all pleasure in life. 

Everybody knows the Memoirs and Letters oj 
the Prince de Ligne, whose style — le style parle^ 
as Mme de Stael calls it — has a charm of its own. 
The letters I prefer are those he addressed to the 
Marquise de Coicelles during his travels in th( 
Crimea with the Empress Catherine, of which h( 
often talked to us. The letters bring him to life 
again to me, especially the letter he wrote fron: 
Parthenizza. It is so full of witty and philo- 
sophical ideas, and reveals the mind and soul o: 
the Prince so well, that it appears to me like J 
moral prism. I have read the letter a dozer 
times, and I hope to read it again. 

Countess d'Houdetot. 
I made the acquaintance of Countess d'Houdeto 
long before the Revolution. She was then the 
centre of all the celebrated wits and artists of 
Paris. As I desired very much to see her, my 
friend, Mme de Verdun, who was intimately 
acquainted with her, took me to Sannois, where 
Mme d'Houdetot had a house, and got me invited 
for the day. I knew she was not good-looking, 
but remembering the passion with which she had 
inspired J. J. Rousseau, I expected at least tc 
find she had a pleasant face. I was so very muct 


To face p. 167 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

disappointed at finding her so ugly that her 
romance vanished from my imagination on the 
spot. She was so boss-eyed that when she spoke 
to you it was impossible to make out whether her 
words were meant for you. At dinner I thought 
every time she offered me a dish that she was 
offering it to somebody else, so equivocal was her 
gaze. It must be said, however, that her sweet 
nature made one forget her ugliness. She was 
kind and indulgent, and rightly beloved of all 
those who knew her. As I always considered 
her worthy to inspire the tenderest sentiments, I 
came to believe after all that she was able to inspire 
a man with love. 

The Mar^chal de Biron. The Marjechal de 


The face, figure and appearance of these two 
old bulwarks of the French monarchy have re- 
mained so well impressed on my mind that I 
should be quite capable of painting them from 
memory at the present day. 

Having heard about the fine garden attached 
to the Biron mansion, which was said to be full 
of the rarest flowers, I sent a request to the Marechal 
for permission to visit it. This I received, and 
accordingly I went there with my brother one 
morning. In spite of his great age (eighty-four, 
I believe) and his infirmities, the Marechal Biron 
came out to meet me, though he walked with 
difficulty. He came down the steps of his broad 
terrace in order to give me his hand when I 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

alighted from my carriage, and then excused 
himself for not being able to show me round his 
garden. After my walk round the garden I 
returned to the salon, where he kept me a long 
while. He talked with elegance and ease, referring 
to old times in a way that interested me immensely. 
When I went back to my carriage, he insisted on 
giving me his arm as far as the bottom of the 
terrace steps, and with bare head and body erect 
waited until he had seen me leave before entering 
the house. This gallantry in a man past eighty 
seemed to me most charming. 

He died in 1788. He was spared the pain of 
witnessing the defection of the Gardes Frangaises. 
He had tightened up the discipline in that body 
so rigorously that his successor, the Duke du 
Chatelet, slackened it beyond measure just before 
the Revolution arrived. 

Regarding the Mar^chal de Brissac, I only saw 
him at the Tuileries, where he was fond of walking 
about. He looked very old, but held himself 
very upright and walked like a young man. His 
costume attracted attention, for he always wore 
his hair in plaits, which formed two pigtails at 
the back of the head, while his coat was long 
and flowing with a girdle below the waist and 
gold-edged stockings rolled about his knees. This 
ancient costume did not make him at all 
grotesque. He looked extremely noble, and seemed 
like a courtier coming out of the halls of 
Louis XIV. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

M. DE Talleyrand. 

One morning Chamfort brought to my house 
M. de Talleyrand, who was then Abbot of Peri- 
jord. His features were gentle, his cheeks very 
ound. Though lame, he was none the less 
legant, and said to be well-off. He said very 
Lttle to me beyond a few remarks on my pictures. 

had my reasons then for believing that he merely 
vished to find out whether I lived in the midst 
)f as much luxury and grandeur as I was said to 
lo, and that Chamfort brought him in order to 
)rove the contrary. My bedroom, which was 
he only room in which I could receive him, 
^^as furnished in the simplest manner, as M. de 
Talleyrand and many other persons may remember 
t the present day. 

I don't think he ever came to my house again, 
>ut I saw him a while at Gennevilliers, when he 
ame to dine with Count de Vaudreuil. I also 
^w him later, on my return to France. He was 
hen married to Mme Grant, a very good-looking 
Voman whose portrait I had painted before the 
devolution. A rather amusing story is told about 
ler : M. de Talleyrand, having invited Denon 
o dinner on his return from accompanying Bona- 
larte in Egypt, urged his wife to read a few 
»ages of the celebrated traveller's history, so that 
he might be able to say something pleasant to 
am. He added that she would find the volume 
n his writing-table. Mme de Talleyrand obeyed, 
ut made a mistake and read a fairly large part 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

of the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. At table 
she put on her most charming look and said to 
Denon : " Ah ! Monsieur, I have just read your 
book with the utmost delight ! How interesting 
it is, especially when you describe how you met 
that poor Friday ! " Heaven knows what Denon 
looked like at these words, and above all M. de 
Talleyrand ! This litde story went all round 
Europe. Perhaps it is not true. It is certain, how- 
ever, that Mme de Talleyrand had a very poor wit. 
In this respect her husband had enough for two. 

Doctor Franklin. 

I first saw Doctor Franklin when I was painting 
the portrait of Monsieur, afterwards Louis XVII L 
He had come with the other ambassadors to makt 
his visit to the Court. I was struck by his extreme 
simplicity. He wore a plain grey coat and flat 
unpowdered hair reaching to his shoulders. Bui 
for his noble face, I should have taken him foi 
a big farmer, so great was his contrast with th( 
other diplomats, who were all powdered, in ful 
dress, and splashed all over with gold and ribbons 

No man in Paris was more lionized thai 
Franklin. Crowds ran after him in the prom- 
enades and public places. Hats, sticks, snuff- 
boxes, everything was named after him, and i 
was considered a great honour to be invited to 
dinner at which that celebrated personage wa 
present. I may say, however, that meeting him 
even very frequently, was not enough to satisfy 
the curiosity he aroused. I often saw him at th^ 

By Hoiidon (Muse'e de F'ersailles). 

To face p. 170. t 

demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

louse of Mme Brion, who lived at Passy. Franklin 
pent all his evenings there. Mme Brion and her 
wo daughters provided music which he seemed 
o listen to with pleasure, but during the intervals, 
never once heard him speak so much as a word, 
,nd I was tempted to believe that he was vowed 
o silence. 

The Prince of Nassau. 

I was still unmarried when the young Prince 
f Nassau was presented to me by the Abbe 
jiroux. He asked me to paint his portrait, which 
'. made full length, of a small size, in oils. The 
Mnce of Nassau, called "the Invulnerable" by 
he Prince de Ligne, had already gained a repu- 
ation for his dazzling deeds of heroism that 
eemed almost fabulous. His whole life was a 
eries of surprising adventures. He was hardly 
wenty when he went with Bougainville on a 
ourney round the world, and penetrated into the 
leserts, where his daring earned for him the name 
>f the Monster-tamer. Since then he has fought 
victoriously on land and sea against all the nations 
)f the world. Always at it, warring or otherwise, 
le has been all over the world from one end to 
he other. Hence it was said that his letters 
;hould be addressed to him on the great roads. 

There was nothing in the face and appearance 
>f the Prince of Nassau to indicate the hero of 
o many adventures. He was tall and well-made, 
^^hile his features were regular and fresh-com- 
Dlexioned. But the extreme gentleness and 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brm 

habitual repose of his looks gave no hint of th 
great deeds and intrepid valour which marke( 
him out among all others. I met him again a 
Vienna during the emigration. I had taken mi 
daughter, who was then about nine years old, t< 
the house of Casanova. The latter had pain tec 
several pictures of the Prince de Nassau in th< 
act of felling lions and tigers. Shortly after, w< 
were visiting the Princess de Lorraine one evening 
when the Prince de Nassau was announced. Ex- 
pecting to see a ferocious individual, my daughtc] 
whispered to me : " Oh ! is that the man J 
heard so much about ? He looks as gentle and 
shy as a girl just out of the convent." 

M. DE La Fayette. 
Shortly before the Revolution, I was paid J 
visit by M. de La Fayette. He merely came tc 
see the portrait I was painting of pretty Mme dc 
Simiane, whom he was said to be looking after, 
I never met him again. We should find it rathei 
hard to recognize each other, for I was young at 
the time of his visit, as he was too, though it was 
after his journey to America. He seemed tc 
have a pleasant face. His tone and manner were 
very well bred and gave no sign whatever of his 
revolutionary inclinations. 

Madame de La Reyniere. 
After my marriage I sometimes went to suppei 
with Mme de La Reyniere and to the evening 
parties she used to give in the house which her 


To face p. 172. 

iemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

usband built in the Rue des Champs Elysees, 
here the best society in Paris met. 
Mme de La Reyniere's maiden name was Jarente. 
ier family were noble and very poor, and had 
nade her marry M. (Grimod) de La Reyniere, 
ne of our wealthiest financiers. Everything about 
:er showed the disgust she felt in having to be 
ailed by a bourgeois name. She was good- 
Doking, very tall and very thin. Her noble 
nd haughty air was remarkable. She established 
erself as reigning mistress of the house, where 
he always received her guests with the grandest 
lignity, in order to let no one forget who she 
i^as born. When Doyen the painter was asked 
ne day after dining at her house what he thought 
f Mme de La Reyniere, he replied : " She 
eceives very well, but I believe she is suffering 
rom nobility." 

Her husband was a good fellow in every sense 
f the word, easy to get along with, and never 
peaking evil of anybody. Nevertheless he was 
urned into ridicule, or rather he was made fun 
because he fancied he could paint and sing, 
ie spent all his time exercising these two imaginary 
alents, one in the morning, the other in the 
vening. He had a perfect dread of thunder, 
nd had one of his cellars arranged as a room 
ined with a double layer of taffety. I went down 
o see it out of curiosity. When a storm was 
bout to burst he would take refuge in this vault, 
vhile one of his servants beat a drum with all his 
night at every clap of thunder. No human 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

power could have made him come out before 
the sky was all clear once more. As he main- 
tained he was not afraid of thunder and only 
took refuge in the cellar in order to avoid the 
vivid impression made on his nerves by the storm, 
somebody wantonly devised a means to deprive 
the poor man of his excuse. One day he went 
to play a game of cards at the chateau of the 
Duchess de Polignac at La Muette, where she 
used to spend the summer. The card-table wai 
set before a window opening into the park. A^ 
the base of the window Count de Vaudreuil had 
placed a couple of squibs. M. de La Reyniere 
was enjoying a quiet game, the weather being 
very calm, when of a sudden the squibs went 
off with a loud bang. He got such a terrible 
fright, crying out " Thunder ! Thunder ! " that 
he almost fell ill. His fears were soon removed 
when the thing was explained to him. It was 
proved, however, not that his nerves were affected 
by thunder, but that he was afraid of it. 

Mme de La Reyniere's society was made up 
of the most distinguished people of the Court 
and town. She also attracted to her house the 
outstanding personalities in the arts and literature. 
The Abbe Barthelemy, author of Anacharsis, spent 
his life there. Witty and pleasant Count d*Adhe- 
mar went there almost every day, as did Count 
de Vaudreuil and Baron de Besenval, Colonel- 
General of the Swiss Guards. Mme de La Rey- 
niere's great evening receptions usually brought 
together the most fascinating women of the Court. 


By Dutertre. 

To face p. 174. 

ilemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

[t was there that I made the acquaintance of 
[l!ountess de S^gur, who was then as good-looking 
IS she was kind and nice. Her sweetness and 
ifFability were prepossessing. She never left her 
3ld and infirm father-in-law, the Marechal de 
Segur, who found in her a veritable Antigone. 
Her husband, who was noted for his wit and 
literary talent, was at that time Ambassador in 

To complete the charm of Mme de La Rey- 
niere's receptions, music was often performed in 
the gallery by Sacchini, Piccini, Garat, Richer, 
and other celebrated artists. Indeed, it would 
be difficult to convey an adequate idea of the 
delights of those gatherings, of the amenity and 
good manners which prevailed in those salons 
among people delighted to be in one another's 
company. Moreover, at the time I am speaking 
of there were several houses of this kind. I will 
mention above all those of the wives of Marechal de 
Boufflers and Marechal de Luxembourg. Though 
it must be admitted these two great ladies were 
not considered to be the most moral women of 
their time, young women eagerly resorted to 
their houses. Some of them said to me : " It 
is there that we get the best lessons in the manners 
[)f good society and receive the best advice." 
The Marquise de BoufHers, daughter-in-law of 
the Marechal and mother of the Chevalier de 
BoufHers so famous for his wit, was the author of 
a delightful song, a sort of social code, which I 
reproduce here because it is little known : 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

To the tune of " Sentir avec ardeur fiamme discrHe." 
II faut dire en deux mots ce qu'on veut dire, 
Les longs propos sont sots. 
II faut savoir lire 
Avant d'ecrire, 
Et puis dire en deux mots ce qu'on veut dire. 
Les longs propos sont sots. 
II ne faut pas toujours parler, 
Mais ecouter ; 
II faut savoir trancher Temploi 
Du moi, du moi, 
Voici pourquoi : 
II est tyrannique, 
Trop academique; 
L' ennui, 1' ennui 
Marche avec lui. 
Je me conduis toujours ainsi 
Ici ; 
J'ai reussi.i 

Coming back to the subject of Mme de La 
Reyniere, it may be noted that when she became 
a widow she was left with a son who was far from 
sharing his mother's pride of nobility, and must 
have exasperated her many a time on that score. 
First of all, he persisted in calling himself Grimod 
de La Reyniere (M. de La Reyniere's original 

I " One should say in a couple of words what one has to say. Long- 
winded talk is stupid. One must know how to read before writing, and then 
say in a couple of words what one has to say. Long-winded talk is stupid. 
One should not always talk, quote, date, but listen. One should know how 
to cut down the use of the personal pronoun, because it is a despot and too 
academic. Boredom is its companion. I always behave in this way here. 
Hence I have succeeded." 

^.moirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

ime was Grimod), and more often than not just 
lain Grimod. Moreover, he was on affectionate 
rms with his father's relations, and very often 
his mother's grand dinners he would talk before 
I the Court of his uncle the grocer, or his cousin 
ic hairdresser, which put the poor woman on 

Young Grimod de La Reyniere had plenty of 

Lt, though he was fond of being original in all 

rts of things. For instance, he would never 

?r his hat. Having an amazing wealth of hair, 

got his valet to do it up into an enormous 

upet. Being in the amphitheatre of the Opera 

le day, when a new ballet was being performed, 

happened to sit in front of a small man who 

irted to curse at the top of his voice this new 

nd of wall that shut out his view of the stage. 

red of seeing nothing, the little man began to 

ke one of his fingers through the toupet, then 

poked another finger through and so ended 

making a sort of quizzing-glass to which he 

It his eye. During all this procedure M. de 

Reyniere neither stirred nor uttered a word. 

the end of the performance, however, he rose 

d putting out one hand stopped the man who 

IS about to leave ; with the other hand he drew 

ittle comb from his pocket, saying in the coolest 

mner : " Monsieur, I let you do everything 

u cared to my toupet in order to help you to 

the ballet at your ease. But I am going out 

supper and you must realize I cannot possibly 

ssent myself in the state to which you have 

M 177 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Bru 

reduced my hair, so you will have the goodnei 
to rearrange it, or to-morrow we shall cut eac 
other's throats." — " Monsieur," replied the litd 
man, laughing, *' God forbid I should fight 
man who has been so kind to me as you. I wi 
do my best." And taking the comb, he dre^ 
the hair together somehow, after which the 
separated like the best friends in the world, 


I was always eager for the society of all artis 
of note, especially of distinguished artists in m 
own art. David, therefore, came pretty often t 
my house. Suddenly, however, he ceased coming 
Meeting him in society one day, I felt obliged t 
reproach him gently on the subject. He replied 
" I don't like being in the company of Coui 
people." — " How ! " I exclaimed. " Could yo 
possibly have noticed that I treat Court peopl 
better than others .'' Have you not seen me we 
come everybody with the same regard ^ " As li 
persisted, I added laughingly : " Ah ! I belie\ 
you are proud and grieve at not being a dui 
or marquis. For my part, I am utterly indifFerei 
to titles and receive all nice people with pleasure. 

David never came to my house again aft( 
that. He even extended to me the hatred \ 
bore to some of my friends. This is proved b 
the fact that later on he got hold of some so 
of big book written against M. de Calonne, j 
which were related all the odious calumnies again 
myself. He always kept this book in his atelie 


By Cochin, 

To face p. 179. 

letnoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

ring on a stool and open at the page where I 

'as discussed. Such a piece of malice was so 

ack and puerile that I would never have believed 

had I not been told about it by M. de Fitz-James, 
ount Louis de Narbonne and other acquaintances, 
ho saw the thing on more than one occasion. 

It must be said, however, that David was so 
ind of his art that no amount of hatred prevented 
im from doing justice to any talent one might 
ive. After my departure from France I sent 
Paris the portrait of Paesiello, which I had 
linted at Naples. It was hung at the Salon 

791) beneath a portrait painted by David, 
ith which the artist was doubtless not satisfied, 
pproaching my picture, he looked at it a long 
hile, then, turning to some of his pupils and 
jher persons standing around him, he said : 
One would think my portrait was done by a 
pman and Paesiello by a man." I was told 
lis by M. Le Brun, who was present at the time, 
[oreover, I am certain that David never refused 
[ give me his praise. 

lit is quite likely that such flattering praises of 
y talent might have induced me to forget David's 
tacks on my person, but I have never been able 

forgive his atrocious conduct during the Terror, 
e indulged in cowardly persecutions of a great 
imber of artists, especially Robert the landscape 
linter, whom he had arrested and treated in 
ison with barbarous severity. I should never 
ive been able to meet such a man again. On 
y return to France one of our most celebrated 



Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

painters (Gros) told me during a visit that David 
was very anxious to see me again. I made no 
reply, and as the painter in question had plenty 
of gumption, he realized that my silence was nol 
of the kind referred to by the proverb : " Whc 
says nothing, consents." 

M. DE Beaujon. 

Having been asked by M. de Beaujon to pain 
his portrait for the hospital founded by him 
the Faubourg du Roule, I went to the magnificen 
mansion which is now called L'Elys^e-Bourbon 
as the unfortunate millionaire was unable to com< 
to my house. I found him alone, sitting in 
big arm-chair on castors in the dining-room. Hii 
hands and legs were so much swollen that h 
was unable to use them. His dinner was nothing 
more than a sad dish of spinach. But a littl 
farther away, in front of him, stood a tabl 
prepared for forty diners. The food served a 
that table was said to be exquisite and was prepare( 
for some intimate women friends of M. de Beaujo 
and the persons they cared to invite. Thes 
ladies, who were all of good birth and societj 
were nicknamed in the world " M. de Beaujon' 
cradle-rockers." They gave their orders in th 
house, had the whole of his mansion and horse 
at their disposal, and paid for these advantages wit 
a few moments' conversation which they grante 
to the poor invalid, who was tired of living alone. 

M. de Beaujon wished to make me stay fc 
dinner. I refused, as I never dined away froi 

By herself. 

To face p. i8i. 

demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

lome. But we agreed on the price and pose of 
lis portrait. He wished to be painted seated at 
L writing-desk, to the middle of the legs, with 
Doth hands. I was not slow to begin and to 
inish the work. When I was able to do without 
:he model, I took the canvas home to finish some 
)f the details. I took it into my head to put the 
?lan of the hospital on the desk. When M. de 
Beaujon got to hear of it, he immediately sent 
lis manservant to beg me to obliterate the plan, 
md to deliver to me thirty louis as a compensation 
'or the time I had employed. I had barely drawn 
he sketch, and naturally I refused to take the 
hirty louis. The manservant returned next day 
md insisted so much on behalf of his master, 
hat in order to get him to take the money back 

was obliged to obliterate the plan in his presence, 
hereby proving to him that it had not taken up 
nore than five minutes of my time. 

While 1 was working on the portrait of M. de 
3eaujon I wished to look over his fine mansion, 
vhich was fabled to be very magnificent. No 
private person, indeed, lived in the midst of so 
nuch luxury. Everything was cosdy and ex- 
quisite. The first salon was hung with striking 
pictures, not one of which was really worthy of 
lote, though proving how easy it is to deceive 
imateurs, whatever price they may put upon their 
icquisitions. The second was a music-room, con- 
aining large and small pianos and all kinds of 
nstruments. Other rooms, such as the boudoirs 
md studies, were furnished with the greatest 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

elegance. The bathroom especially was delightful. 
It had a bed and a bath draped, like the walls, 
with fine flower-spangled muslin with a pink 
lining. I have never seen anything so pretty. 
It must have been very nice to have a bath in 
that room. The first-floor apartments were fur- 
nished with similar care. In the middle of one 
room, adorned with columns, there stood an 
enormous gilt, flower-circled basket enclosing a 
bed in which no one had ever slept. All that 
side of the mansion overlooked the garden, which 
in view of its size might be called a park. Il 
was laid out by a clever architect and adorned 
with a vast quantity of flowers and green trees. 

It was impossible for me to look over thij 
delightful dwelling without feeling pity for ib 
wealthy owner and recalling an anecdote I had 
heard a few days before. An Englishman, being 
anxious to see all the sights of Paris, asked foJ 
M. de Beaujon's permission to inspect the mansion; 
When he came to the dining-room, he discovered 
the table laid out, just as I had done. Turning 
to the manservant who was showing him round 
he said : '' Your master must keep a very fin< 
table ? " — " Alas ! " replied the man, " my mastei 
never sits down to table. He dines off nothing 
but a dish of spinach." The Englishman ther 
passed into the first salon. *' Here at least li 
plenty to delight his eyes," he exclaimed, pointing 
to the pictures. — *' Alas, Sir, my master is nearly 
blind." — " Ah ! " said the Englishman, as he 
entered the music-room, *' he makes up for that 


By Cochin. 

To face p. 183. 

'emoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

I suppose, by listening to good music ? " — " Alas, 
Sir, my master has never heard any of the music 
that is played here. He goes to bed too early 
in the hope of sleeping a few moments." The 
Englishman then looked out at the beautiful 
garden and said : " But at least your master 
can enjoy his walks." — " Alas, Sir, he can't walk." 
[At this moment the persons invited to dinner 
arrived, among whom were several very pretty 
women. The Englishman remarked : " However, 
here is more than one beauty that can give him a 
few enjoyable moments." In reply to this remark, 
the manservant merely sighed " Alas ! " twice 
instead of once, and made no further comment. 

M. de Beaujon was very small and fat, with no looks 
at all. M. de Calonne, whom I painted at the same 
time, was a perfect contrast to him. When the Abbe 
Arnault saw the two portraits side by side at my house, 
he exclaimed : *' Behold the spirit and the matter." 

M. de Beaujon had been banker to the Court 
under Louis — , and his financial operations had 
always been so clever that before he grew old 
he was already possessed of millions. It must be 
jaid in his praise that he spent a good deal of his 
fortune on good works. No unfortunate ever 
appealed to him in vain, while the hospital of the 
Faubourg du Roule still reminds the public of 
bis benefactions to mankind. 

M. Boutin. 
Another immensely wealthy financier, who was 
IS benevolent as M. de Beaujon, was M. Boutin, 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

for whom I cherished much friendship. He was 
no longer young when I made his acquaintance. 
He was small, lame, gay and witty, and so good- 
natured and kind that one grew attached to him 
as soon as one knew him a litde closer. As he 
was immensely wealthy, he frequendy received 
his numerous friends with great dignity, without 
interfering in any way with his good works in 
connection with the poor. M. de Boutin was a 
perfect host, as I was often able to judge. He 
told me he had instituted on my behalf a Thursday 
dinner, at which all my intimate friends were 
present : Brongniart, Robert and his wife, Lebrun 
the poet, the Abbe Delille, Count de Vaudreuil, 
who never missed attending whenever he was in 
Paris on a Thursday, etc., etc. We were never 
more than twelve at table, and these dinners were 
so amusing that they made me break my word 
never to dine away from home. They took place 
in M. Boutin's charming house at the top of a 
magnificent garden which he had called Tivoli. 
In those days the Rue de Clichy had not yet 
been built, so that when you happened to be 
there among the beautiful trees and avenues you 
might think you were out in the country. ] 
may even say that that beautiful dwelling seemed 
to me rather too isolated. I should have been 
afraid to go there in the evening, and I often 
advised M. Boutin never to go home alone. 

After my departure from France my brothei 
wrote to me that M. Boutin still went on wit! 
his Thursday dinners, in memory of me ; tha 

demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

[ was always toasted, as was also Count de Vaudreuil, 
vho had likewise emigrated. Unfortunately for 
lim, M. Boutin was of the same way of thinking 
is M. de Laborde, who wrote to me in Rome 
hus : " I am remaining in France. I am un- 
ilarmed. As I have never done harm to 
myone . . . ! '* Alas ! good, kind M. Boutin 
ikewise had never done harm to anyone. Never- 
■heless, they both fell beneath the revolutionary 
latchet, for both were rich and their riches were 
;oveted. I am at a loss to describe the grief I 
'elt on learning the news. M. de Boutin was 
)ne of the men I shall regret my whole life long. 
The Government took possession of all his pro- 
perty. His beautiful park was utterly destroyed, 
except for a small part which was turned into a 
ashionable promenade under the name of Tivoli, 
vhere very fine fetes are said to have been 
^iven, though I never saw one. It is easy to 
ealize that on my return to France I had not the 
:ourage to go back to that unhappy spot. 

M. DE Saint-James. 
M. de Saint-James was Fermier-General, very 
A^ell-to-do and a true financier in the fullest sense 
)f the word. He was a middle-sized man, big 
md fat, with the kind of ruddy complexion that 
Dne sees on persons of fifty or so, when they are 
n good health and happy. M. de Saint-James 
icept a very opulent house. He lived in one of 
the fine mansions on the Place Vendome, and 
^ave very large and good dinners at which thirty 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

or forty persons at least were present. Having 
been unable to refuse an invitation to go there 
once, I very much regretted being neither a 
gourmande nor a sweet-tooth, for in both these 
respects I should have been utterly satisfied. The 
numerous company, however, did not strike me 
as being nearly so nice as what was to be found 
at the house of M. Boutin. M. de Saint-James 
received his guests in a manner much more hearty 
than elegant. After dinner the guests went into 
a superb drawing-room fitted out entirely with 
mirrors, which, however, did not help the many 
persons present, who were unacquainted with one 
another, to carry on conversation together with 
the sort of confidence and intimacy that goes to 
make up the charm of conversation. 

Later on, when M. de Saint-James had arranged 
his house and superb garden at Neuilly, which 
was always called La Follie Saint-James, he 
begged me to go there and dine with some of 
my friends. It was a pleasant day. He showed 
us round the fine park which had cost a fortune. 
Among other expensive follies, he had constructed 
an imitation mountain, the enormous stones of 
which were no doubt brought from afar at great 
expense and looked as though they were merely 
hung up. I confess I crossed it very quick, as 
those immense arches looked far from safe. 

In this superb habitation M. de Saint-James 
was fond of giving wonderful entertainments. I 
went there once to see a comedy acted. So many 
persons had been invited and walked about the 

By Cochin, 

To face p. i86. 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

garden before and after the show that it looked 
like a public promenade. 

It may be supposed that the Revolution did 
not come in time enough to punish M. de Saint- 
James for having displayed so much magnificence, 
for I have never heard it said, either abroad or 
since my return to France, that he was guillotiiied. 
A natural death must have spared him the fearful 
fate of M. de Laborde and M. Boutin. 

Countess d'Angiviller. 

Mme d'Angiviller was what is called a fine 
wit. She had this reputation when she was still 
Mme Marchais. Her society was composed of all 
the men of letters, and even savants. Count 
d'Angiviller, who was often among her guests, 
fell in love with her and married her. She had 
io much influence over him that he never spoke 
in her presence, though he had plenty of wit, 
good taste and knowledge, which could be easily 
enjoyed whenever his wife was absent. 

It is quite impossible for me to say whether 
Mme D'Angiviller was ugly or pretty, though I 
saw her plenty of times and was often put beside 
her. But she always concealed her face beneath 
a veil, which she never removed even for dinner. 
The veil covered, besides her face, an enormous 
bouquet of green branches, which she always 
Darried at her side. I could never make out 
bow she could shut herself up together with the 
bouquet without getting a headache. But later 
Dn, when I went into her bedroom, I was still 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

more surprised to find it adorned with rows of 
planks bearing all sorts of green trees that were 
never removed even at night. 

Mme d'Angiviller was the acme of politeness, 
but so oddly given to paying compliments that 
people sometimes felt she made a mockery of 
politeness. One day M. d'Angiviller gave a 
dinner to some artists of the Academy, at which 
Vestier was present. Vestier was a very good 
portrait-painter and had just exhibited at the 
Salon a very fine family group that had aroused 
much attention. He must have been about fifty 
years old, and was thin, pale, and amazingly 
ugly. Wishing to say something flattering to 
him, Mme d'Angiviller exclaimed very loud : 
** Really, Monsieur, I find you have grown quite 
handsome." Poor Vestier went as red as a 
cockerel and looked right and left to see whether 
the words might not have been addressed to any 
other but himself, which made me burst into a 
fit of laughter. 

It was at the house of Mme d'Angiviller that 
I first dined with the Marquis de Bievre, who 
became famous for his puns. I was unlucky, for 
on the day in question he did not make any. 
But I was told of a very good one which he 
had addressed to the Queen. Her Majesty having 
asked him for a pun, M. de Bievre bowed before 
her and noticed she was wearing green shoes. 
Whereupon he said at once : " Les desirs de 
Votre Majeste sont des ordres ; I'univers est a se^ 








< =5 








VLemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 


Ginguene was presented to me by the poet 
Lebrun as his intimate friend, so that he some- 
imes came to my evening parties, though I did 
lot like him in any way. I thought him dry and 
without any charm or cheer. He was out of 
klace in my society, while his works were as dis- 
tasteful to me as his conversation. 

In 1789 he read to us an ode he had just 
composed for M. Necker. It might very well be 
taken for the programme of 1793, for in it he 
jpoke of victims and asserted that France could 
not be regenerated without bloodshed. Such 
atrocious opinions made me shudder. Count de 
V^audreuil, who was present, said nothing, but we 
xchanged glances and I saw quite well that he 
ealized the nature of the man as well as I. 

Ginguene never left his friend Lebrun-Pindare. 
^Immediately after the death of the latter he paid 

visit to Mme Lebrun, who, by the by, had 
een a cook, and asked her for Lebrun's manu- 
cripts, as he wished to publish them. On going 
hrough them in order to put them in order, 
Ginguene was somewhat taken aback to find more 
than a hundred epigrams against himself, some of 
them quite atrocious. The publisher naturally 
put them all aside. But I have always suspected 
him of having taken his revenge by printing too 
many weak and useless things in the works of 
Lebrun, which detracts considerably from a collec- 
tion that might otherwise be excellent. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

It is well known that he threw himself heart 
and soul into the Revolution, and constantly 
expressed his regret that it had not been in his 
power to vote the death of Louis XVI. 


My brother was one of those men who are 
born to be made much of in society. He had a 
very good manner, having been about a good 
deal in high society, plenty of wit and instruction. 
He wrote very pretty verses with considerable 
ease, and acted comedy better than a good number 
of actors. He contributed a good deal to the 
charm and gaiety of our gatherings. Perhaps the 
eagerness with which people sought his company 
was detrimental to his literary career, for wei 
used to take up much of his time. Nevertheless, 
he still had enough in which to gain distinction 
as a man of letters. Besides the course of literature 
which he gave at the Athenee with great success, 
in spite of his coming after a course just given by 
La Harpe, Vigee left a volume of light verse 
and several comedies in rhyme, two of which, 
Les Aveux Difficiles and UEntrevue, remained a 
long time in the repertory of the Theatre Franyais. 
I am even surprised they are no longer given, 
especially UEntrevue, a charming little piece, 
which was admirably acted by Mile Contat and ' 

While still young, my brother married the 
elder daughter of M. de Riviere, the Charg^ 
d'AfFaires for Saxony. She was a charming woman, 

Aufcur ingpivunix ct seduisant LtMtexir. 
A son donWe talent t^out miracle ent pos3il>le ; 
Son espnt es( aimahle et son ca-iu- ev-it seusiblo ; 
Lp lire pst mi pliusir , If coimaifre un boTiLeiir . 


By Riuiere, 

To face p. 190. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

ull of virtues and talents, an excellent musician 
nd gifted with so good a voice that she sang at 

y house with Mme Todi without exciting any 
mfavourable comparison. 

My brother and Mile de Riviere had only 
ne child by their marriage, my niece, my beloved 
liece, who has given me back a daughter, since, 
las ! I lost my own. 

The Marquis de Riviere. 

I cannot ever think of this fine man without 
ecalling the knights of old. Everything about 
lim was chivalrous. He faced death a hundred 
imes, even the most horrible death, with the 
itmost courage, coolness and perseverance in order 
o serve the Prince to whom he had consecrated 
lis life. His devotion sprang from no ambition 
Dut from the truest friendship, the like of which 
s rare even among ordinary persons. This afFec- 
don of the Marquis de Riviere for Count d'Artois 
dominated every other sentiment. It led him 
nto exile, poverty and prison ; yet he never 
rhought he was making too great a sacrifice for 
ts sake. '' I have nothing left," he said to me 
Dne day in London. Then, placing his hand on 
the spot where the portrait of his beloved Prince 
llways lay over his heart, he added : '' But I 
tvill shed my last drop of blood for him. Perhaps 
Fate has spared my life so often in order that I 
may be of use to him. If that is so, I shall be 
very glad to have escaped death so often." 

It was on account of this praiseworthy desire 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

that M. de Riviere always undertook the most 
important and often the most dangerous missions. 
He knew no rest ; he did not seem to need it. 
He would set out for Vienna, Berlin, Petersburg, 
taking to the kings who still remained on their 
thrones the requests of a king who had lost his. 
He was on the road day and night without stop- 
ping, sometimes without taking food, and carried 
out his mission with so much disinterestedness and 
cleverness that he gained the esteem and respect 
of all the sovereigns and diplomats of Europe. 
These oft-repeated journeys were not dangerous 
apart from the extreme fatigue that they caused 
him. On the other hand, how many times he 
penetrated into France, where he ran the risk of 
losing his head ! In his numerous journeys to 
Paris during the Reign of Terror how many 
times his zeal and activity must have made him 
face death ! God seemed to protect him. Once 
when about to land in Brittany he found the 
coast brisding with soldiers. He jumped from 
the boat into the sea at once, remaining under 
water until the coast was clear and he could reach 
the shore. He went in and out of Paris, some- 
times disguised as a match-seller, sometimes in an 
entirely different disguise of the same class. During 
the daytime he hid in the house of a good fellow 
who had once been in his service and was utterly 
devoted to him. Night was his only time for 
action, and then at the risk of deadly perils. 
Often he was unable to evade his pursuers except 
by jumping over deep ravines, swimming rivers, 

lemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figee-Le Brun 

ifFering hunger and thirst, and having no rest, 
'hus he was always successful in escaping till the 
id affair of Georges Cadoudal. 

I remember that just before that fatal under- 
lining I met him in London at a house where 
'ichegru was also present. Declaring me to be 
1 excellent physiognomist, M. de Riviere came 
3 to me and pointed to the French General, 
lying : " Take stock of that man. Do you 
link he's to be trusted ? " Of course, I was 
together ignorant of what the matter was about, 
ut I looked at Pichegru and replied without 
esitation : '* He can be trusted. Sincerity seems 

me enthroned on his brow." Pichegru, indeed, 
as never a traitor. It is only too true that he 
as the first to die of the victims of that unhappy 
tempt. The fate of M. de Riviere was not so 
Drrible, though his imprisonment was long and 
uel. He told me on my return to France that 
le first dungeon into which he was thrust was 
ill of stagnant water reaching as far as his ankles, 
to this plight is added the idea of his never, 
irhaps, seeing the world again, together with his 

ief at being so far from his beloved Prince 
id from all his friends, one can imagine what 
\ must have suffered. It was during that time 
\ misfortune that M. de Riviere reverted to piety, 

d found in religion all the necessary strength to 
tar so many sufferings and privations. 

After being in prison several years, he was 

owed out on his word of honour not to leave 
•ance, for Bonaparte himself knew what M. de 

N 193 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brui 

Riviere's word of honour was worth. In fact, h 
kept it scrupulously, till the day he had th< 
ineffable joy of seeing the Bourbons return. 

It is common knowledge that the King mad( 
him a Duke, that he was sent as Ambassador t( 
Constantinople, and that Charles X had chosei 
him to be the tutor of the Duke of Bordeaux 
when he died a premature death, to the grea 
regret of his young pupil, his beloved Prince, anc 
one may say, of the whole of France. 

Hearing that Charles X was deeply grieved : 
the loss of such a friend, and having alread 
painted the portraits of several persons frort 
memory, I tried to paint that of M. de Rivier 
as well. I was lucky enough to succeed. I a 
once took the portrait to the King, who receive< 
it with great emotion, exclaiming with tears ii 
his eyes : " Ah ! Madame Le Brun, how gratefu 
I am to you for your happy and touching idea ! 
I was more than paid by these words. Never 
theless, the following day I received from Hi 
Majesty a superb necessaire in silver gilt, which 
will keep all my life. 

The Duke de Riviere was middle-sized, neithe 
handsome nor ugly. All that could be notice 
in his countenance was the extreme fineness c 
his look, which, together with the expression c 
sincerity and good-nature, indicated the whol 
character of the man. Even as I depict hirr 
M. de Riviere always made the most brilliar 
conquests. These were not due to his exteric 
advantages, but to the qualities of his soul, whic 


After Moreau, junior. 

To face p. 19 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brun 

procured for him so many faithful friends. Among 
ieveral distinguished beauties who had an affection 
or him, the last was undoubtedly the prettiest 
woman at the Court. She loved him as long as 
she lived, and M. de Riviere held her memory 
in great affection. He used to wear her portrait 
next his heart, beside the portrait of Count 
d'Artois. He showed it to me in London. He 
did not commit any indiscretion in doing so, for 
his liaison with this charming person was known 
to everybody. On his return to France, he married 
a woman who adored him and whose one happiness 
be became. He had thereby several children. 

In addition to his noble and fine character, 
M. de Riviere had plenty of wit. Some of his 
etters might well be printed as models of style, 
pvhile the timely word never failed him in con- 
i^ersation. One day, for instance, he was lunching 
b Petersburg with Suvaroff, who held him in 
^reat esteem and affection. The General pointed 
JO him and said to the Russian officers : " Let*s 
Irink to the bravest ! " — *' To your health, 
VIonsieur le Marechal," replied M. de Riviere 
It once. 

The life of the Duke de Riviere was written 
)y the Chevalier de Chazet under the title of 
Memoires, All the necessary documents were 
placed at his disposal so that there might be no 
juestion as to the truthfulness of the work, which 
nakes interesting reading and does honour alike 
:o the heart and literary talent of the author. 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 


In 1785 I went with my brother and Count de 
Vaudreuil to dine with the celebrated savant and 
writer, BufFon. He was already very old, dying 
shortly after, at the age of eighty-one. I was 
struck at first by the severity of his looks, but as 
soon as he started talking, he seemed to be trans- 
formed. His face brightened up to such an extent 
that, without exaggeration, genius glowed in his 
eyes. We left him in order to sit down at table, 
while he remained in the drawing-room, as he 
could no longer eat anything but vegetables. His 
son and pretty daughter acted as hosts at dinner, 
after which we returned to the drawing-room for 
coffee. When the conversation started, M. Buffon 
took the lead and seemed to enjoy spinning it 
out. He recited several fragments of his works^ 
which were all the more charming owing to the 
warmth and expression in the great man's mode 
of speech. It was fairly late when we took our 
departure from him with much regret. He thrilled 
me so much that I envied his son and daughter- 
in-law for being able to see and hear him every 

M. LE Pelletier de Morfontaine. 
M. le Pelletier de Morfontaine, sometime Mer- 
chants' Provost in the reign of Louis XV, was 
witty, well-informed, good-natured and well-bred. 
Yet I have never known anybody subjected to sc 
much ridicule, 






o § 
O -J 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

He was very tall and thin. When I made his 
acquaintance he was about fifty-five years old 
and looked pale and faded. In order to brighten 
up his complexion, he used to smear a thick layer 
of rouge on his cheeks, and even on his nose. 
It was so obvious, that he declared his face would 
frighten people if he didn't paint it. This made 
his face already comic enough, and he surrounded 
it with so funny a head-dress that when I saw it 
for the first time I burst out laughing. It was 
a large Treasurer's wig, the toupet of which rose 
to a point like a sugar-loaf, while long curls fell 
down to the shoulders. It was powdered white 
all over. Moreover, M. le Pelletier suffered from 
somewhat embarrassing infirmities which were not 
due to his age but to the misfortunes of Nature. 
He was always obliged to keep scented pastilles 
in his mouth and to avoid speaking close to people. 
He bathed his feet several times a day, and even 
at night, and always wore two pairs of shoes with 
double soles. In spite of all these precautions it 
Vvas impossible to sit near him in a closed vehicle. 
I underwent the sad experience with my sister- 
in-law in returning from Morfontaine. But, 
gracious me ! in spite of everything, M. le Pelletier 
was very forward with the ladies and thought 
himself to be in their eyes the most dangerous 
tnan of the world. He never ceased talking about 
biis love affairs, successes and conquests, thereby 
giving rise to much fun. 

The Chevalier de Coign y told me that on 
t^isiting M. le Pelletier one morning he discovered 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

him stretched out on a pallet beside a table littered 
with phials, medicaments, satchells, etc., and so 
pale, not yet having painted his face, that M. de 
Coigny thought he was dying. " Ah ! my dear 
Chevalier ! " he said immediately, " how delighted 
I am to see you ! You must give me your advice 
on a subject that gives me a good deal of concern. 
I must tell you that I have just broken off all 
my liaisons. I am free, absolutely free, and since 
you know the prettiest women of the Court, you 
are going to tell me which of them you advise 
me to pay my attentions to." The Chevalier de 
Coigny was perhaps the most amused of all of 
us at the funny ways of M. le Pelletier. Naturally 
he warmed to the occasion. He set about passing 
in review with him the women who were most 
remarkable for their beauty. But M. le Pelletier 
found in every one something that repelled him. 
This scene lasted a long while. " By heavens, 
man ! " exclaimed at last the Chevalier, bursting 
into laughter. " Since you are so hard to please, 
I advise you to imitate handsome Narcissus and 
fall in love with yourself." 

It was during M. le Pelletier's term of office 
as Provost that the bridge at the Place Louis XV 
was built. On that occasion the King gave him 
the Cordon Bleu, which was obtainable by virtue 
of office if a man did not belong to the high 
nobility. This ribbon turned his head to such an 
extent that he always wore it. I am tempted to 
believe that he wore it on his dressing-gown in 
the early morning. One day I caught sight of 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

him climbing up the rocks that surround the 
lake at Morfontaine. He was dressed as usual, as 
though he was about to set out for Court. I 
called out to him from below, where I was walking 
about deep in my rural day-dreams, that his 
Blue Ribbon was utterly ridiculous in the midst 
of all that beautiful Nature. He never for a 
moment felt any grudge against me for having 
thus made him realize his oddity. For, after all, 
it must be acknowledged that poor M. le Pelletier 
was one of the best men that ever existed. 


I was at the Comedie Fran^aise the day Voltaire 
was present at the performance of his tragedy 
Irene, In all my life I never saw such a triumph. 
When the great man entered his box, the shouts 
and clapping of hands were so great that I thought 
the place would collapse. It was the same when 
the crown was placed on his head. The celebrated 
old man was so thin and frail that I feared such 
strong emotions would cause him mortal harm. 
As for the piece, nobody listened to a word of 
it. Nevertheless, Voltaire was able to leave the 
theatre convinced that Irene was his best work. 

I had a great desire to go and see him at the 
house of M. de Villette, with whom he was staying. 
But I abandoned the idea, having heard that the 
great number of visits he was being paid caused 
him much fatigue. I can thus say that I only 
went to his house in painting ... in the following 
manner. Hall, the cleverest miniature painter of 


Memoirs oj Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

the time, had just finished my portrait. It was a 
very good likeness and Hall showed it to Voltaire 
while on a visit. After looking at it for a long 
while, the celebrated old man kissed it several 
times. I confess I was greatly flattered at having 
received such a favour, and was very pleased with 
Hall for coming to tell me of it. 

Prince Henry of Prussia. 

When Countess de Sabran presented me to the 
brother of the great Frederick, I set eyes on him 
for the first time. It is impossible for me to say 
how ugly I found him. He must have been aged 
about fifty years at the time, the King of Prussia 
being much older than he. He was small and 
slim, while his shape had no nobility, though he 
bore himself very upright. He had a strong 
German accent and gargled excessively. As for 
the ugliness of his face, it was at first sight utterly 
repulsive. Nevertheless, in spite of two large eyes, 
one looking right and the other looking left, his 
look had a certain gentleness, which was also 
noticeable in his voice. His speech was always 
full of great kindness, and in listening to him 
one grew accustomed to seeing him. 

His military bravery is too well known to be 
talked about here. As the brother of Frederick, 
he was naturally fond of glory ; but it must be 
acknowledged that he was as responsive to a piece 
of human kindness as to a piece of heroism. He 
was good and set much store by the goodness of 

demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

He was passionately fond of the arts, especially 
nusic, and even took his first violin with him on 
lis travels, so that he might cultivate his talent 
>n the way. 

His talent was rather middling, but he never 
nissed a chance of exercising it. During his 
tay in Paris, he constantly came to my musical 
jvenings. He was not at all afraid of the presence 
if the foremost virtuosi, and I never saw him 
efuse to take his part in a quartet beside Viotti, 
vho played first violin. 

Count d'Albaret. 

Another passionate amateur of music living in 
f*aris at the same time was Count d'Albaret. Not 
fnly did he make it his business to attend all the 
loncerts, but in spite of a small income he had 
lis own body of musicians, after the manner of 
overeigns. He boarded and lodged in his house 
line or ten musicians, paying them a salary and 
Uowing them to take pupils during their leisure 

These artists, as one may readily suppose, were 
ill second rate. The singing lady, for instance, 
vho sang only Italian airs, had a fairly good 
/^oice, but would never do for a prima donna, 
ind I remember the singing master he gave me 
aad a rather middling knowledge. The same 
tould be said regarding his instrumentalists, not 
jven excepting the first violinist. Nevertheless, 
ill these people were so accustomed to team work 
md constant rehearsals that nowhere was such 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

excellent music executed as at the house of Count 
d'Albaret. Hence, all music-lovers flocked to his 
concerts. These took place on Sunday morning. 
I went there several times, and always came away 

Count d'Espinchal. 

Here you have a man whose business and 
pleasure, in a word, whose whole existence was 
confined to knowing, day by day, what was 
happening in Paris. Count d'Espinchal was always 
the first to be informed of a marriage, love intrigue, 
death, the reception or refusal of a play, etc. ; 
so much so, that if anybody needed any information ^ 
whatsoever about anybody or anything in the 
world, his or her first remark would be : " One 
must ask d'Espinchal about it." Of course, in 
order to be so well posted, he needed to know 
an amazing number of people. Hence he was 
unable to go down the street without greeting 
somebody at every step, ranging from the grand 
gentleman to the theatre boy, from the duchess 
to the charwoman and kept girl. 

Furthermore, Count d'Espinchal went about 
everywhere. He was sure to be seen, if only for 
a moment, at the promenades, horse-races, in the 
salons, and in the evening at two or three shows. 
I could really never make out when he took his 
rest, for he spent almost every night at the balls. 

At the Opera and the Comedie Frangaise, he 
knew exacdy whom all the boxes belonged to. 
Most of them, it is true, were hired by the year 


By Madame he Britn [Musee de Versailles), 

To face p. 202 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

I those days. He would have them opened one 
fter another in order to stay five minutes in each ; 
3r he had too much business in all directions to 
ay long visits. He just spent time enough to 
ather a few more bits of news. 

Happily, Count d'Espinchal was not ill-natured, 
^herwise he would have been able to upset many 

household, break off many liaisons of love or 
riendship, and do harm to a good number of 
lersons. He was not even very talkative, and 
;new how to hold his tongue with the persons 
oncerned in the numberless mysteries he managed 
D discover. It was quite enough for his personal 
itisfaction to be perfecdy in the know regarding 

II that was happening in Paris and at Versailles, 
lut to accomplish this aim he left no stone un- 
lirned, and was certainly better informed about 
undreds of matters than the Chief Constable 

Such a mania is so odd that in order to prove 
is reality I will relate an incident that was known 
>y the whole of Paris at the time. One day, or 
ather one night. Count d'Espinchal was at the 
)pera Ball. In those days the ball was not what 
t has become nowadays ; it was frequented by 
;ood society, and the best ladies of the Court 
iid town did not forego the pleasure of attending 
t, " disguised to the very teeth," as the saying was. 
^or M. d'Espinchal, however, no disguise existed, 
ie recognized everybody at a glance. Hence 
11 the masked dominoes avoided him like the pest. 
ie was walking about the hall when he noticed 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

a man he Jailed to recognize. The man was run- 
ning about, pale and scared, going up to all the 
women disguised as blue dominoes and turning 
aside in despair. The Count did not hesitate tc 
approach him, and said with a look of interest : 
** You appear to me to be in difficulties, Monsieur. 
If I can be of use to you by any means, I shal 
be delighted." — " Ah ! monsieur," answered the 
stranger, " I am the most miserable of men. This 
morning I arrived from Orleans with my wife. 
who pestered me to take her to the Opera Ball. 
I have just lost her in this crowd, and the pool 
thing doesn't know the name of the hotel, nor 
even the name of the street where we have taken 
lodgings." — " Put yourself at ease," replied the 
Count. " I will lead you to her. Your wife is 
sitting at the second window in the foyer." It 
was indeed the lady. Overwhelmed with joy, he 
stammered his thanks. " But how did you manage 
to guess right. Sir ? " — " Nothing simpler," 
answered the Count. " Your wife is the only 
woman at the ball whom I do not know, and I 
had already concluded she must have arrived 
from the provinces quite recendy." 

When I returned ko Paris under the Consulate, 
I saw Count d'Espinchal once again. *' You must 
have lost your bearings altogether," I said to 
him. " You no longer know anybody in the 
boxes at the Opera and the Comedie Fran9aise." 
His only reply was to raise his eyes to the ceiling. 
He died shortly after, of boredom no doubt, for 
he was not extremely old. Before dying, he is 


After Moreau, junior. 

To face p. 204. 

^.emoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Figie-Le Brun 

lid to have burnt an enormous quantity of notes 
hich he was in the habit of jotting down every 
/ening. I had, indeed, been told about these 
otes by several persons who, perhaps, were 
raid of them. Certainly, they would have sup- 
lied matter for a very piquant volume, and a 
ery scandalous one into the bargain. 

Countess de Flahaut. 

Among the most distinguished women I knew 
efore the Revolution I must not forget the 
uthor of A dele de Senange, 'Eugene de Rotheliriy 
nd several other delightful works, which every- 
ody has read at least once. Mme de Flahaut, 
t the present day Mme de Souza, had not yet 
kken to writing when I made her acquaintance. 
3er son, who is now a peer of France, was then 

child of three or four. She herself was quite 
oung. She had a pretty figure, a charming face, 
he wittiest-looking eyes, and so much amiable- 
ess that one of my pleasures was to spend the 
yening at her house, where I usually found her 

On my return to France I longed very much 
see her again. A vast amount of business and 
arious occupations prevented me so long from 
.oing this that I no longer dared present myself 
t her house. If by chance she reads these lines, 
he will know that I am far from having forgotten 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Bruf 

Mademoiselle Quinault. 

Mme de Verdun, one of my best friends 
acquainted me with Mile Quinault, who had gainec 
celebrity as a great actress and was still famou! 
as one of the wittiest and most learned women o: 
her time. She had left the stage in 1741. Th( 
intimate friend of M. d'Argenson and M. d'Alem- 
bert, she presided over a salon which had become 
the meeting-place of the most distinguished mer 
of letters and society people in Paris. There waj 
much eagerness for the pleasure of spending s 
few moments with her. 

At the time of my acquaintanceship with her. 
Mile Quinault had, notwithstanding her great age. 
retained so much wit and mirth that she looked 
young to those who listened to her. Her memory 
was amazing. Certainly, she had had plenty oi 
time to adorn it, for she was eighty-five yeari 
old. Among scores of anecdotes derived frorr 
her remembrances, she told us how one day sh€ 
went to see Voltaire, with whom she was very 
friendly, and discovered him in bed. He began 
to talk to her about one of his tragedies, in which 
he wished Lekain to wear a scarf, placed in a 
particular way. In the heat of his description 
Voltaire suddenly threw off the bed-clothes and 
pulled up his shirt in order to demonstrate a 
scarf with it, leaving his decrepit body fully 
exposed to the eyes of Mile Quinault, who wa« 
quite put out of countenance. 

Mile Quinault died, more than ninety yean 
2 06 

By the Cotnte de Cka-uoy. 

To face p. 206. 

femoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

f age, in 1783. Mme de Verdun, who went 
see her one morning, was surprised to 
nd her fully dressed and decked out with 
link ribbons, but in bed. " How ? " said 
/Ime de Verdun. " I have never seen you so 
oquettish ! " — " I have dressed myself in this 
i^ay," replied Mile Quinault, " because I feel 
am going to die to-day." The same evening 
he passed away. 

Count de Rivarol. 

One morning my brother brought to see me 
I^ount de Rivarol, who was very popular in the 
nost brilliant circles of Paris on account of his 
vit, even before he had written anything. As I 
vas not expecting him, I was in my atelier putting 
he finishing touches to several portraits I had 
ust painted. It is common knowledge that this 
inal work does not allow of any distraction, so 
hat in spite of the desire I had always felt to hear 
VI. de Rivarol talk, I was too much preoccupied 
o enjoy all the charm of his conversation. More- 
over, he talked so volubly that I was almost stunned. 
However, I nodced that he had a handsome face 
and an extremely elegant figure. None the less, 
he must have thought me so clumsy that he never 
came to see me again. Maybe some other reason 
kept him from coming. He spent his life with 
the Marquis de Champcenetz, who was always 
Very ill-natured towards me. Though possessing 
neither the talent nor the brains of the author of 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Discours sur runiversalite de la langue Fran- 
faisCy the Marquis de Champcenetz had plenty of 
wit, and generally used it to tear his neighbour to 
shreds. Like M. de Bievre, he was fond of puns 
and always making them, so that Rivarol called 
him the epigram of the French language. 

It was the Marquis de Champcenetz who, on 
being condemned to death by the revolutionary 
tribunal, gaily asked his judges whether he was 
allowed to find a substitute as for service in the 
National Guards. 

Paul Jones. 

I often went to supper at the house of Mme 
Thilorie, sister to Mme de Bonneuil, with that 
celebrated sailor who rendered so many services 
to the American cause and did so much harm to 
the English. 

His reputation had preceded him in Paris, 
where everyone knew the number of battles in 
which he had triumphed with his little squadron 
over the ten times superior forces of England. 
Nevertheless I have never met so modest a man. 
It was impossible to get him to talk about 
his great deeds, but on all other subjects he 
willingly talked with a great amount of sense 
and wit. 

Paul Jones was a Scotsman by birth. I believe 
he would have very much liked to become an 
admiral of the French Fleet. I even heard that 
when he returned to Paris a second time he made 

^.emoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

request of this nature to Louis XV, who gave 
im a refusal. 

However that may have been, he went first of 
1 to Russia, where Count de Segur presented 
im to the Empress Catherine II, who received 
im with the utmost distinction and invited him 
> dinner. He left Petersburg to join Suvaroff 
pd the Prince of Nassau, with whom he dis- 
nguished himself once more in the war against 
le Turks. Back in Paris, he died during the 
Levolution, but before the Reign of Terror, 


Having heard endless talk about this notorious 
jharlatan, I had the curiosity to assist once at 
t^hat he called his seances, in order to judge of 
his jugglery for myself. On entering the first 
joom, in which the adepts of animal magnetism 
i^ere gathered, I saw a lot of people standing 
jound a large, well-tarred tub. Most of the men 
nd women held one another's hands to form a 
hain. I wished at first to join in the circle, but 


thought I noticed that the man who was to 
le my neighbour was mangy. You can imagine 
pw quick I withdrew my hand and passed into 

e next room. As I crossed the room accomplices 
f Mesmer pointed small iron wands at me from 
ill sides, which annoyed me amazingly. After 
dsiting the various rooms, all of which were full 
)f the sick and the inquisitive, I was about to go 
iway when I saw a tall, young, rather pretty girl 

o 209 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brut, 

coming out of a neighbouring room, while Mesme: 
held her hand. She was all dishevelled and de- 
lirious, taking great care, however, to keep he: 
eyes shut. A crowd gathered about therti imme 
diately. " She is inspired," said Mesmer. " Sh« 
can guess everything, though she is quite asleep.' 
Then he made her sit down, seated himself ir 
front of her and, taking her by both hands, askec 
her what o'clock it was. I noticed quite wel 
that he kept his feet on the feet of the pretendec 
soothsayer, which made it quite easy to tell th 
time and even the minutes. Hence the girl' 
answers were so exact that she proved to be ir 
agreement with all the watches of the assistants. 

I confess I came away indignant at the idea o 
its being possible for such quackery to succee( 
among us. Mesmer earnt heaps of money. No 
only did he gain immense profits from his much 
frequented stances, but his numerous dupes mad' 
a subscription for him, which, I was told, amounte( 
to nearly five hundred thousand francs. He wa 
soon obliged, however, to go to an unknowi 
place in order to enjoy the fortune he had acquire 
in Paris. The rumour having got abroad tha 
many indecent things were taking place at hi! 
stances, the doctrines of this juggler were examinee 
by the Academy of Science and the Royal Societ^ 
of Medicine, and the judgment of these t\ 
learned bodies regarding animal magnetism was o 
such a nature that it obliged Mesmer to leave 
France. . 

Nowadays, when tubs and small iron wanJ 


By Madame Le Brun. 

To face p. 210. 

demoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

lave disappeared, we still find people who are 
;onvinced that some woman or other, often quite 
lliterate, sent to sleep by a magnetizer, can not 
>nly tell you the time, but also guess your disease 
md tell you the best treatment to follow. May 
hese sleep-walking sibyls do a lot of good to those 
vho consult them ! For my part, if I was ill, I 
ivould rather call in a clever, wide-awake doctor. 

M. Charles and M. Robert. 

I saw the ascent in a balloon of the first two 
nen who had the courage to venture into the air 
n so frail a contrivance, which had just been 
nvented by Montgolfier. They were Charles and 
Robert. They had fixed their balloon to the 
jreat basin at the Tuileries. On the day appointed 
•or the ascent (December i, 1785) the garden 
?vas filled with an enormous crowd, the like of 
?vhich I have never seen. When the ropes were 
:ut and the balloon rose majestically to so great 
m altitude that it was lost to our sight, the ad- 
niration and fear for the two brave men in the 
ittle basket drew a cry from every breast. Many 
people — and I confess I was of their number — 
lad tears in their eyes. Happily, it was reported 
I few hours later that Charles and Robert had 
anded safely a few miles from Paris at a village 
?vhere the arrival of these passengers of the air 
nust have created quite a lively sensation. 

M. Charles was a member of the Academy of 
Science, and one of our most distinguished savants. 

21 1 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-he Brim 

He was, moreover, an excellent man, being pas- 
sionately fond of music. Every year in his 
splendid laboratory he gave a series of lectures 
which were much frequented both by students of 
science and people of society. 



cademy, French, 8, 39, 46, 6^, 66, 67 

idheniar, Comte d', 174 

Ibaret, Comte d', 201, 202 

lembert, d', 205 

illard, Mademoiselle, 95 

.mbassadors, Turkish, 48 

.msterdam, 64 

.ncenis, 124 

.ngiviller, 58, 187, 188 

.ntwerp, 64 

.remburg, Duchesse d', 43, 62 

.rgenson, d', 206 

Lrnault, The Abbe, 22, 69, 183 

jnoult. Mademoiselle, 77, 92, 93 

^rtaut, 137, 138 

trtois, Comte d', 59, 61, 91, 97, 103, 

104, 141, 146, 191, 195 
^^tois, Comtesse d', 59 
kthens, 141 
lUbert, 43 
^uguier, Madame, 122, 123, 124, 

125, 127 
i.zevedo, 28, 68 

larthelemy, The Abbe, 174 
ieaujon, de, 78, 180, 181, 182, 183 
leaumarchais, 91, 104, 105 
teauvoisin, 138 
lenoist, 44 
lerlin, 139, 192 
Jerthier, 119 
lerthollet, Madame, 102 
Jesenval, Baron de, 174 
ievre, Marquis de, 86, 188 
liron, Marechal de, 167, 168 
{oisset, Randon de, 23 
lonaparte, 193 
lonneuil, Madame de, 37, 38, 49, 50, 

74, 75, 208 
Joquet, Mademoiselle, 20, 21, 29 
Jordeaux, Due de, 194 

BoufBers, Chevalier de, 70, 148, 175 

Boufflers, Marechal de, 175 

Boufflers, Marquise de, 175 

BoufFon, 196 

Bougainville, 171 

Boutin, 73, 75, 76, 183, 184, 185, 

186, 187 
Breteuil, Baron de, 57 
Briard, 21 

Brionne, Comtesse de, 26, 38 
Brissac, Due de, ir6, 117, 118, 119 
Brissac, Marechal de, 168 
Brizard, 84 
Broc, de, 124 

Brongniart, 54, 129, 130, 131, 184 
Brunoy, Marquise de, 1 14 
Brussels, 63, 64 

Cadoudal, Georges, 193 

Caillot, 96, 97, 103 

Calonne, 78, 81, 82, 108, 150, 178, 183 

Campan, 55, 122, 124, 125, 127 

Canillac, Madame de, 43 

Canning, Mrs., 80 

Carlin, 96 

Casanova, 172 

Catherine II of Russia, 9, 53, 166, 208 

Chaillot, 34, 35, 37 

Chalgrin, Madame, 30, 74 

Chamfort, 152, 153, 169 

Champcenetz, de, 67, 207, 208 

Champs Elysees, 33 

Chantilly, 10 1 

Charles the scientist, 2 x i 

Charles X, 194 

Chartres, Due de, 33, 46 

Chartres, Duchesse de, 26, 28 

Chastellux, Marquis de, 166 

Chaudet, 74 

Chaumette, 143 

Chazet, Chevalier de, 195 


Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Choiseul, Due de, 39 

Choiseul-Gouffier, Comte de, 140, 141 

Choiseul, Madame de, 27 

Clairon, Mademoiselle, 87, 88 

Clery, Rue de, 8, 20, 41, 67, 74 

Coicelles, Marquise de, 166 

Coigny, Chevalier de, 197, 198 

Colombes, Chateau de, 158, 159, 160 

Colysee, The, 33 

Come, The surgeon, 19 

Comedie Franfaise, 32, 104, 199, 202 

Conde, Prince de, 153 

Contat, Mademoiselle, 91, 92, 104, 

134, 190 
Conti, Prince and Princess, 103, 150 
Cramer, 68 
Crillon, Due de, 121 
Crussol, Bailiff of, 80 
Cubieres, Marquis de, 74, 75, 76 
Custine, Madame de, 149 

Dalayrac, 98 

D'Alembert, 18, 39, 40 

Dauphin, The, 57 

Davesne, 16 

Davich Khan, 49, 50 

David, 178, 179, 1 80 

Delille, The Abb6, 70, 71, 121, 122, 

140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 158, i6i, 

164, 184 
Demoustiers, 44 
Despr^s, 152 
Diderot, 18 

Doligny, Mademoiselle, 91 
Dominichino, 45 
Doyen, 15, 20, 151, 173 
Du Barry, Madame, 113, 114, 115, 

117, ri8, 119 
Dugazon, 86, 90 
Dugazon, Madame, 98, 99 
Dumesnil, Mademoiselle, 84, 85 
Duth6, Mademoiselle, 28 

Echelles, 138 

Elizabeth, Princess, 59, 153 

Elizabeth II of Russia, 25 

Entraignes, Comte d', 94 

Ermonville, 109 

Espinchal, Comte d', 202, 203, 204 


Filleul, 29 
Fitz-James, de, 179 
Flahaut, Comtesse de, 205 
Flanders, 62, 64, 6^, 165 
Fleury, 92 

Fleury, Cardinal de, 39, 40 
Florence, 81 
Fontainebleau, 53, 56 
Foulon, 119 
Franklin, i8o 
Frederick the Great, 200 

Garat, 28, 68, 103, 104, 175 

Gardel, 94 

Garde Nationale, 132, 134, 208 

Gaudron, 108 

Genlis, Madame de, 132, 156, 157 

Genlis, Marquis de, 33 

Gennevilliers, 97, 103, 104, 169 

Geoffrin, Madame, 25 

Gerbier, 37 

Ginguen6, 74, 189 

Giroux, Abbe, 171 

Gluck, 22, 68, 69, 75, 93 

Gorsas, 78 

Gramont-Caderousse, Duchesse de, 45 

Greece, 140 

Grenoble, 136, 138 

Gr^try, 37, 38, 54, 68, 94, 98 

Greuze, 8, 23 

GroUier, Marquise de, 70, 88, 154, 

155, 161 
Guiche, de, 162, 163 
Guimard, Mademoiselle, 94, 95 

Helvetius, 18 

Henry, Prince of Prussia, 68, 8r, 148, 

Holland, 63 

Houdetot, Comtesse de, 166 
Howe, Clarissa, 26 
Hulmandel, 68. 

Jarnovick, 68 
Jones, Paul, 208 
Joseph II, 53 

Kourakin, Princess, 9 

Laborde, de, 81, 134, 185, 187 

lemoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise VigSe-Le Brun 

Bruyere, 39, 40 

Fayette, Marquis de, 172 

Fontaine, 142 

Guiche, Comtesse de, 79 

Harpe, 46, 190 
mballe, Princesse de, 61 
imeth, de, 59 
1 Reyniere, Madame de, 172, 173, 

irive, 72, 87, 88 
I Ruette, 98, 103 
luzun. Due de, 39 

Belloi, 97 
B Brun, 8, 41, 42, 5:, 62, 67, 79, 

80, 108, 179, 189 
ecomte. Mademoiselle, 108 
e Couteulx du Molay, Madame, 70 
ekain, 37, 72, 84 
emaire, 18 
e Moine, 37 

e Pelletier, no, 196, 197, 198, 199 
t Roulx, Mademoiselle, 44 
etour, 37 

jvis. Marquis de, 23 
!gne. Prince de, 62, 63, 164, 171 
ongchamp, 31 

orraine, Princesse de, 26, 39, 172 
■ouis XIV, 168 
ouis XV, 115, 117, 119, 209 
ouis XVI, 58, 76, 90, 135, 152, 163 
ouis XVIII, 59, 60, 170 
ouveciennes, 113, 115, 116, 117, 118 
ouvre, 21 
lUbin, 97 

.ubomirski. Prince Henry, 74, 80 
uxembourg, 22, 34 
.uxembourg, Marechal de, 175 
.yons, 137, 138 

4aestrino, 68 
4alamison, 121, 122 
darais Institution, 32 
larie-Antoinette, Queen, 7, 8, 45, 52, 

547 55' 567 57> 587 61, 99, 135, 151, 

152, 162, 163, 164, 188 
darken, 63 

darly, 35, 36, 114, 122 
/[armontel, 69 
idars. Mademoiselle, 93 
idarseilles, 141 

Martini, 68 

Maupertuis, no 

Mazarin, Duchesse de, 47, 48 

Menageot, 77 

Mesmer, 209, 210 

Minerva, Temple of, 141 

Mirabeau, 153 

Molay, Comtesse du, 121, 122 

Mont-Cenis, 139 

Montesquiou, Marquis de, 60, no 

Montesson, Madame de, 102, 103 

Montgeroult, Madame de, 68 

Montgolfier, 211 

Monvel, 85 

Monville, de, 115 

Morfontaine, 109, 189 

Muette, Chiteau de la, 29, 163, 174 

Muller, 64 

Naples, 139, 179 
Narbonne, Comte de, 119, 179 
Nassau, Prince de, 171, 172, 209 
National Assembl^-^, 61 
Necker, 133, 189 
Ney, Marshal, 124 
Nivernais, Due de, 112, 113 
Noailles, Marechal de, 67, 113 
Normandie, Due de, 57 

Olivares, Comte, 121 
Olivier, Mademoiselle, 104 
Opera, 27, 48, 49, 95, 177 
Opera Comique, 95, 98 
Orleans, Due d', 102, 133 
OrlofF, Comte, 25 

Paesiello, 179 

Palais Royal, 23, 27, 69 

Pamela, 132 

Parny, de, 91 

Paroy, Comte de, 74 

Parthenizza, 166 

Pelin, Mademoiselle, 95 

Penthievre, Due de, 29, 36 

Perico, Carlo, 32 

Perouse, de la, 32 

Peter III, 25 

Peze, Madame de, 70 

Philippe-Egalite, 33 

Piccini, 69, 93 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Pichegru, 193 
Pierre, 6^, 66 
Pindare-Le Brun, 70, 71, 74, 76, 109, 

147, 149, 150, 151, 152, 184 
Poinslnet, 15 
Polignac, Duchesse de, 162, 163, 164, 

Poussin, 74 
Praslin, Due de, 23 
Presle, Harin de, 23 
Preville, 90, 91 
Princess Royal, 57 

Quinault, Mademoiselle, 206, 207 

Raby, Mademoiselle, 27 

Raincy, 102, 103 

Raphael, 23, 24, 45 

Raucourt, Mademoiselle, S6 

Regnault, Saint- Jean d'Angely, 37 

Rembrandt, 23 

Renard, Mademoiselle, 31 

Richer, 68 

Richet, 175 

Rivarol, Comte de, 207 

Riviere, 72, 74, 103, 104, no, 132, 

133, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195 
Robert, no, 120, 135, 159, 160, 161, 

179, 184 
Rohan, Cardinal de, 39 
Rohan- Rochefort, Princesse de, 38 
Roissy, Madame de, 37 
Romainville, 120 
Rombech, Madame de, 165 
Rouge, Marquise de, 70 
Rousseau, 127 
Rubens, 22, 23, 62, 64 
Rulhieres, de, 39 

Sabran, de, 70, 148, 149 
Sacchini, 68, 93, 175 
Saint-Denis, Rue, 20 
Saint-Georges, 28, 102 
Saint-Germain, 113 
Saint-Honore, Rue, 26 
Saint-Hubert, 93, 94 
Saint- James, de, 185, 186, 187 
Saint-Luc, Academy of, 78 
Saint-Ouen, 112 


St. Petersburg, 81, 125, 139, 192 

Sainval, Mademoiselle, 86, 104 
Salentin, 68 

Salon, 51, 53, 57, 64, 78 
Sannois, 166 
Sardam, 63 
Sceaux, 36 

Segur, Comtesse de, 70, 120, 175 
Segur, Marechal de, 120, 121, 175 
Segur, Vicomte de, 70, 164 
Serre, Comtesse de, 82, 83 
ShouvalofF, Comte, 25 
Sieyes, the Abbe, 122 
Simiane, Madame de, 172 
Sombreuil, de, 129, 130, 131 
Souza, Madame de, 43, 1 14, 205 
Spain, 141 

Stael, Madame de, 164, 165, 166 
Stafford, Lord, 23 
SuvarofF, 195, 209 
Suzanne, 35, 36 
Sweden, King of, 46 

Talleyrand, de, 169, 170 
Talma, 72, 88, 89 
Temple, Boulevard du, 31, 33 
Theatre Frangais, 85 
Thilorie, Madame, 208 
Tippoo-Sahib, 49, 115 
Tivoli, 34, 184 
Todi, Madame, 68 
Toulouse, 80 
Trianon, 57 

Truanderie, Rue de la, 20 
Tuileries, 22, 34, 36, 124 
Turin, 61 

Vallayer- Coster, Madame, 65 

Van der Heist, 64 

Van Dyck, 23, 62 

Varennes, 90 

Vaudeville, 54 

Vaudreuil, Comte de, 73, 75, 76, 9; 

103, 104, 105, 109, 112, 141, 14, 

146, 147, i5i» i52» i53> i54j i6i 

169, 174, 184, 189, 196 
Vauxhall d'£te, 33 
Verdun, Madame de, 47, 70, 157, 155 

159, 166, 206, 207 

Memoirs of Madame Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun 

Vergil, 141 

Vernet, Joseph, 21, 22, 24, 65, 74 

Versailles, 31, 53, 55, 58, 60, 76, 81, 

124, 135, 136, 153, 163, 204 
Vestier, 188 

Vestris, Mademoiselle, 86, 87, 94, 95 
Vien, Madame, 65 
Vienna, 139, 165, 172, 192 
Vigee, Etienne, 72, 190 
Vigee-Le Brun, Madame, 7, 8, 9, 46 

60, 77 

Villette, Marquise de, 106, 107, 128, 

Viotti, 68, 201 
Voltaire, 199, 200, 206 
Vouet, Simon, 158 

Watelet, 108 

Zamore. 117 



^Vj 0^ 7 




NO 553 L5 »5 *^ 

(. 1 vigee-Lebrun. Louise 

Uemolrs of Madame Vlgee Lebrun. 


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